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 possible.

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: Why did we pick these sites? We think the AmericanSingles approach a cut above the rest and Matchmaker has a free full-function trial .

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.

Recommended Sites

There are a lot of sites -- Internet dating is big business. We've awarded the following sites our "1st in Class" award for 2004:

Who (click to visit) Description
AmericanSingles.com "1st in Class" award winner. Links off the bottom of the home page provide you with excellent detail on costs and functionality -- the kind of honesty that we love in a web site. Also, very nicely designed sign-up process and site functionality. "Millions" of members.

Free members can:
  • post a profile with up to four photos
  • search the database
  • send teases
  • reply to instant messages when online
Paying members ($24.95/month) can:
  • send email to other members
  • read and reply to all communications
  • instant message members online
  • chat in the AmericanSingles chat rooms
We think American Singles is worth the effort to sign up for, even if you don't go beyond the free membership, because it gives you a good feel for how "marketable" you are on the dating scene.
Matchmaker "1st in Class" award winner. Free to join. The sign-up process is a bit tedious, but worth the effort. Large but unpublished number of members.

Matchmaker has a real FREE trial -- unlike other sites that have a "free trial" that doesn't allow you to contact others, Matchmaker really does allow you to use the system for free.

We also think it is worth signing up for, because if you decide to become a paying member ($9.95/month, limited time only), they have a 28 day refund policy.


Sites Worth a Try


Who
(click to visit)
Cost/Mo. Membership Other/Comments
AsiaFriendFinder $19.95 "Millions" of members. Free to join. Usage restrictions and fees unstated prior to joining.
CliqueFriends $6.95 1700 International pen pal site with some photos operated by the same company that runs CliqueMates.
CupidJunction $4.95
per contact
"Millions" There are three communities. Dating - general dating, movies, dinners and just hanging out. Romance - interest in developing a serious, steady relationship. Intimate - intimate encounters mostly, not likely to become serious. Free to join, but you must pay to contact or reply to other members.
Date $24.95
"2 million active singles" Visitors are able to post their profile, browse through thousands of pictures and profiles, and search for a match for free. As an added attraction, you can indicate an interest in others at a touch of a button, but you both must be premium members to begin exchanging information.
DateableSingles Unlisted Unpublished Free and paid memberships. Free members can, except send email to our members. When you find someone you would like to contact or someone contacts you and you would like to respond, you can upgrade to a full membership and contact them. You can qualify for one free week of full membership by adding a photo to your personal ad.
DatingDirect $19.95 Unpublished Free to join, but you must pay to contact or reply to other members.
eHarmony $49.95 Unpublished Free to join. Usage restrictions and fees unstated prior to joining.
FriendFinder $19.95 We estimate about a million Free to join. Usage restrictions and membership fees apply.
JewishFriendFinder $19.95 Unpublished Free to join. Usage restrictions and membership fees apply.
LavaLife various Unpublished Free to join. Usage restrictions and membership fees apply. Members buy "credits" which can be used for various features (such as contacting another member).
MatchAve $7.95 Unpublished Free to join. Membership fees apply to use.
Metrodate $18.95
"Hundreds of thousands" Free to join, but you must pay to contact or reply to other members.
Mingles $24.95
per year!
Unpublished Free to join, but you must pay to contact or reply to other members.
PlatinumRomance $24.95
650,000 Free to join with a limited ability to communicate to others without paying. A lot of cute graphics set this site apart from the rest, but we felt that the animations just got in the way.

Our ad generated a lot of mail, but unlike other services, you have to pay before you can find out what it is in your mailbox. We opted to bail out on this one and recommend that you join only if you are pretty sure that you are going to start paying.
Yahoo $19.95
Unpublished (but very large) Free to join, but you must pay to contact or reply to other members.
2ofaKind $24 Unpublished Free to join, but you must pay $1.00 of your membership fee for each "match" report if you want to initiate a contact.


Choosing a Dating Service

What should you look for in a dating service? We think the major factors are cost, size, and "honesty."

- Cost

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.

- Size

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.

- Honesty

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?
  • First and foremost, keep in mind that you are meeting people through the Internet. And while the Internet offers great potential to meet people easily, misrepresentation is even more common on the Internet than in a dark bar, where wedding rings, a few extra years, and not so distant pasts magically disappear. So use dating sites only as a starting point and always use commonsense.
  • We encourage people to review a web site carefully to know what you're signing up for before you typing in your weight, height, and address. However, in many cases, the info just isn't published (there frequently is no pricing or FAQ page) and you have no way of knowing in advance what the costs are going to be. Use our figures above as a guide, but you will have to see what they really offer you to know for sure. Remember that your personal information is what they really want. Make sure a site deserves it before you give it to them.
  • Should you avoid new or small sites? Not necessarily. While the number of people in the directory increases your odds of finding the right person, remember that you are only looking for one (or maybe a few), and even a small dating site, if it has your kind of people registered, could be all that you need.
Someone Special

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