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.
Furthermore, issues such as religion, previous marriages, and smoking habits were found to play much less of a role than expected.
A 2006 study in Edinburgh, Scotland showed that 45% of the women participants in a speed-dating event and 22% of the men had come to a decision within the first 30 seconds.
On the other hand, a couple that decides they are incompatible early on will have to sit together for the duration of the round.
Most speed dating events match people at random, and participants will meet different "types" that they might not normally talk to in a club.
On the other hand, the random matching precludes the various cues, such as eye contact, that people use in bars to preselect each other before chatting them up.
Speed Dating, as a single word, is a registered trademark of Aish Ha Torah.
Speed dating, as two separate words, is often used as a generic term for similar events.