Speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process whose purpose is to encourage eligible singles to meet large numbers of new potential partners in a very short period of time.
It was created in 1998 by Antony Beilinsohn (a Los Angeles based television executive) after his Rabbi, Yaacov Deyo, encouraged Antony to conceive of innovative new ways for eligible jewish to meet and marry.
Many speed dating events are targeted at particular communities: for example, LGBT people, polyamorists, Some feel that speed dating has some obvious advantages over most other venues for meeting people, such as bars, discotheques, etc.
Speed dating, as two separate words, is often used as a generic term for similar events.
Men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short "dates" usually lasting from three to eight minutes depending on the organization running the event.
At the end of each interval, the organizer rings a bell, clinks a glass, or blows a whistle to signal the participants to move on to the next date.
Hurrydate was acquired by Spark Networks (Jdate/Christian Mingle). The advantage of online speed dating is that users can go on dates from home as it can be done from any internet enabled computer.
Pre-Dating was acquired by Cupid.com, but eventually became independent again. The disadvantage is people do not actually meet one another.