It sounds like many here have a common wish - for everyone to meet in some form or another before it gets too serious.
Where we differ is on the definitions of "meet" and "too serious". For some sex, by definition, only happens when things are serious, for others it's more casual. As long as everyone involved in the relationship is compatible on this, then it's going to work - if they aren't, then it's going to be a problem really quickly.
For others, "meet" means face-to-face, because they get a far better "read" on someone when having a face-to-face interaction then by emails or phone calls, whereas for others the emails and phone calls are perfectly fine. Again, as long as everyone involved is on the same page, then things can be very functional.
Knowing this, I think that it's really important in the very early discussions about a relationship, to find out where everyone stands on these points and come to an agreement. This will involve lots of anguish and people wasting their time on something that was destined to fail.
This has been very interesting, and has helped clarify some stuff for me. Thank you for the (mostly) civil discussion on this.
"Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf." - Native American Proverb