|Finding Romance through the Web|
|Time, effort, and geography conspired against
us in in the past, but no more. With Internet
dating, the previously impossible has become
Each day, thousands more realize that the Internet can be an amazingly productive tool for finding a mate. No longer are we restricted to a small pool of friends, neighbors, business associates, and the long sought -- but never happening -- chance encounter. The Internet brings access to literally millions of singles and with only a few keystrokes you can sift through potential partners to find someone -- or at least find out if there is anyone -- who meets your requirements.
The 2004 river2u's "1st in Class" award is shared among these sites:
But these four are just the top ones of our favorites. Below, you can find more information about the award winners followed by the rest of our favorites in alphabetical order. Take a look at the descriptions and our guidelines, sign up for a few that appeal to you, and give the world of Internet dating a try.
What to Expect
Every service offers a free 'come on' to get you to join and submit your profile. They all required you to "upgrade" to a paying membership if you want to contact a potential mate that you picked from their roster of photos and profiles.
Some sites allow free members to reply to a paying member once a paying member initiates an exchange. Other sites require you to upgrade to a paying membership before you can read a note that was sent to you.
Some sites allow a certain number of transactions per set fee -- for example, how many notes you can initiate. More commonly, the membership is based on the length of time, such as one month. In almost all cases, there is a discount for signing up for a longer period or higher volume.
There are a lot of sites -- Internet dating is big business. We've awarded the following sites our "1st in Class" award for 2004:
Sites Worth a Try
Choosing a Dating Service
What should you look for in a dating service? We think the major factors are cost, size, and "honesty."
As you can see from our table above (keep in mind that these prices fluctuate and are, in some cases, our estimates), the cost of belonging to a dating service varies widely. We don't think that price is a measure of quality, only of the willingness of people to pay, and that you can get equally good (or perhaps better) results with a low cost service as with a high-priced ("premium") one. Most services offer the same basic features -- a directory to post your information and to sift through to find candidates, the ability to email people that appeal to you, and usually some kind of special chat room facility. True, the premium services have a 'snob appeal,' but that probably isn't something that is going to work to your advantage since even the premium services usually allow people to add themselves to their directory for free.
And concerning the free trials, remember that you usually get what you pay for. Many times, they are used so that the services can contact you and say that someone wants to meet you, but to meet them, you need to become a paying member.
Most dating web sites allow you to post your personal information for free so that they can get you into their directory and make it appear that they have many more members than just the number of active, paying ones. In the world of Internet dating, getting people into the directory is in fact 75% of the game. Having listings of interested people is the product they sell and, without them, they can't sell their service to anyone. Many sites won't even tell you how many active members they have and, we suspect, a lot of sites are working with the same common "pool" of people that has been built up over the years.
People who register for free often use new email accounts (to avoid getting spam mail) that they don't maintain. After a few days or weeks, these accounts become inactive and thus the free registrations become useless. Consequently, we think that most size claims are, in fact, a lot larger than the number of truly active, available people.
And that brings us to the "honesty" factor. Our biggest gripe with dating sites is that member statistics and fees are often unstated until you give them your personal data -- and sometimes not even then (for example, try to find out what it costs to be a member of FriendFinder.com). As a result, you really don't have an idea of how helpful the service is really going to be for you. Furthermore, once you do your free enrollment and it comes time for you to actually do something to meet people, the sites usually start talking dollars, and sometimes the dollars are really big bucks.
Take a good look at a site's web page. We think you ought to have a really good idea of what you're getting before you sign up. The terms, conditions, and prices of a membership ought to be easy to find. If, instead, you're asked to start filling out information on yourself, you might want to think twice about it.
What to Avoid
What should you look out for?
So should you sign up? If you want to meet new people and are willing to part with a few dollars when an interesting-sounding person comes along, we would generally say, 'Yes.' Most sites allow free enrollment and will notify you if someone is interested in you, so your cost is usually just the time it takes to fill out the enrollment form. And who knows, Mr. Interesting or Ms. Right might be signing up as a paying member as we speak.
Good luck meeting your mate! Maybe someday soon you'll open up your mail and hear, "You've got Mate!"
Updated September 17, 2004 - go to our home page