Anyone who's ever tried dating knows that it can be a scary—and at times frustrating—experience. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a place where you could screen dates before ever meeting them, or let someone (or something) else pick potential matches for you? In this guide we'll show you how to use the Internet to do all those things. We'll provide you with dating sites for people with specific interests or lifestyles, as well as sites that evaluate all these online dating services. We'll even show you how to stay safe with online dating.
Most people you'll find in the online dating world have honest intentions; but just as there are dishonest people in the real world, you can encounter dishonest people online. There are relatively harmless lies (using an inaccurate or old photo, fibbing a bit about age, etc.) and there are deceptions of a more malicious nature (married people on singles sites, sexual predators, and so on). Most of the worries that people have about who they'll meet in real-world dating situations are just as viable online; and although there's no need to obsess over horror stories, it is important to use your good judgment—and the advice you'll find at the sites recommended here—to protect yourself.
- As with any situation where you post a profile on a Web site, don't provide too much personal information. All information you put on a dating profile could potentially be viewed by anyone with a subscription to the site (and in some cases anyone at all). Even sites that "screen" users can't guarantee that unsavory types won't slip by.
- Use common sense when meeting someone new (from an online site or from anywhere). Consider meeting in a public place and let someone know where you are going and who you are with.
For general online dating safety information ...
provides tips for every step of the online dating process to protect users. With a list of "Things to look for" on any Internet dating site, this Web page is a great starter point before creating a profile on a site. Take a look at the "Getting started - what's normal?" and "Going face to face" sections for more advice along the way.
Out in America
has a top-10 list of online dating safety tips, each one thorough yet straightforward. While this site's audience is primarily the gay community, the tips are useful and provide general insights for anyone interested in online dating.
gives a simple list of 13 items with basic safety tips and precautions ranging from "Use a reputable cyber-dating site" to "Meet in a public place."
For tips for the actual date ...
Internet Dating Stories
might not give direct advice, but it provides chronicles of other people's online dating experiences. Learn from their mistakes, witness the potential of the online dating world, or just entertain yourself for a few minutes. Choose from stories categorized under headings such as "Bizarre Dates," "Rants & Raves," and "Happily Ever After."
For help if you are in a dangerous situation ...
provides a guide for self-help as a means of damage control if you have already experienced the more dangerous side of Internet dating. Select whether your problem is harassment or stalking and then read the appropriate guides. At the bottom of the pages, decide how dangerous your situation still feels and opt whether to continue to the next step.
Before you wear yourself—or your wallet—out signing up for every dating site out there, look at a few sites that provide side-by-side comparisons of site features or user reviews of dating sites. Some sites publish news about the online dating industry so you can always be in the know about new sites, or new features for some of the older sites. If you are having a hard time choosing between some of the sites recommended in other sections of this guide, many of the sites in this section will help you make that decision. Remember, before you can find the right date, you have to find the right dating site.
- Reviews of dating sites, as with reviews of anything else, will only be useful to you if you value the opinion of the reviewer. Before you commit to any one review or news site, try a few out to see what best suits you.
- Reading the chronicles of some long-time Internet daters can be a helpful (and amusing) way to see what you might encounter in the online dating scene.
For online dating service reviews ...
has user reviews of plenty of online dating services. Simply click on a dating category on the upper left of the navigation bar and you'll see what sites have reviews. Visit the "Read Reviews of ..." links to read user reviews. Because anyone can post a review, there is no guarantee that all reviews will be extremely useful (a few are just rants by angry users or praise that reads like ad copy), but this is true for any user review site. If you want to spend a little time reading what other people think about dating sites, this is a good place to do it.
has an online dating report that charts the features of 10 of the most popular online dating services. Find out which service lets you search for members by certain interests, how each service matches you with other users, and the cost of each service (even a link to buy). This site reads more like promotional material in favor of online dating, but the online dating report is a handy way to see features side by side.
is a blog written by a self-proclaimed "addict" of online dating from Canada. Read her stories about amusing date experiences, hear tips about how to create an attractive online profile, and get reviews and the latest news in the online dating industry. If you are looking for a particular piece of advice, there is a search function on this blog but it is a little hard to find; look for it on the right side of the Web page (it is dark grey and blends with the background).
For online dating news or statistics ...
Online Dating Insider
is a good way to get updated on the latest news in the online dating industry. A clean design coupled with concise writing makes this blog one of the best out there for online dating updates, whether you are a dater or run a dating site. Unlike many of the other dating blogs, this one doesn't insert much personal info, so you'll get right to the interviews, industry developments, and site reviews. Also notable is the "Tools" section where those in the industry can find software, security, and other helpful resources to drive traffic to their social networking or dating sites.
Online Personals Watch
follows social networking and online dating site news. You'll find summaries and links to the original sources of news stories as well as multimedia interviews with some of the key players in the online dating industry. If you scroll down the homepage, you'll find key statistics for and interesting links about online dating and social networking such as the sites with the most user traffic or new sites to keep your eye on.
Online Dating News
from Topix aggregates news and blog posts about online dating from around the Web. Here you'll find links to stories about new dating sites, legal issues facing certain dating sites, articles about online dating, and more. You can even search for particular news items by topic, keyword, or geographic location.
If you're worried that Mr. or Ms. Right might pass you by, you'll be happy to know that you might be able to find a date without ever leaving your house. Online dating sites have become increasingly popular in the last few years. They allow you to presort the dating pool and hopefully save yourself from finding out three months into a relationship that the person you've been dating has a trait or opinion you just can't live with.
- If there is a local weekly paper or magazine that you know has personal listings, try looking at its Web site to read them online whenever you like.
- You might know of some popular dating sites that aren't included in our Picks. We've included the sites that we feel are easiest to use, offer free trials, or have features not found on other sites. Some popular sites aren't recommended here because they didn't stand up against the others.
For some of the larger, more established dating sites ...
will let you preview the site for free, but if you want to make contact you'll have to pay. Match.com comes with a guarantee: if you don't find someone special in six months, you'll get the next six months for free (your first six will cost you $19.99/month). Match.com has advice and video messages from TV advice guru Dr. Phil to help guide you through the dating process.
has you fill out a long questionnaire to evaluate your personality, and then it matches you with people in your area who are deemed a good fit. eHarmony caters only to heterosexual couples and is well regarded in the Christian community. If you want to contact any of your matches, you have to pay for the service (about $21/month).
evaluates your compatibility with other members on the site and sends you possible matches. Unlike eHarmony, the site is open to "all lifestyle choices" and you can search for your own matches on the site. Perfectmatch also offers free photo cropping and image enhancement to help you look your best.
has questionnaire with more than just the run-of-the-mill personality questions; there are pictures and even games to test who would best match you. If you've got a half hour or so to spare, it's actually kind of fun (and free to fill out). You'll pay anywhere from about $27 to $50 a month to subscribe to the site and actually be able to contact other users. This site is a partner of Match.com.
is a nice break from the busy, ad-heavy dating sites that you'll usually find online. This site allows you to sign up for a free trial account quickly (the site says 30 seconds, but it's really more like a few minutes). After you've entered your profile information, each time you click on "search," Singlesnet automatically generates matches based on your profile; you don't have to enter any search criteria except zip code. Paying for this service makes your profile show up as one of the first results when other users search for criteria that you match. Payment also gives you the ability to send and receive e-mails with other users; this upgrade costs about $25/month or about $90/year.
has a free sign-up, but you'll have to pay to communicate with other members (about $30 a month). You can search for matches in three different areas: Dating, Relationship, and Intimate Encounters, and you're allowed to post three unique profiles. Overall, this site is aimed more at the casual dater.
For those looking for completely free dating online ...
has a compatibility test feature, which is something that most paid sites have but very few free sites offer. Although Plentyoffish.com is lacking in the design department, for a free site it offers more features than you would expect: IM, e-mail, compatibility matches, and site censorship that deletes any profiles with nudity, to name a few. Mind the advertisements between your upper navigation bar and the page content and you should be able to make good use of this site.
is small but growing. Send messages, "nudge" users who you are too shy to write, post up to 10 photos of yourself, even write a blog on the site. The clean and simple design of this site (and that it is nearly void of ads) make it more pleasant to use than lots of other free sites.
is an international dating site that allows you to browse user profiles without making you create a profile first (as many of the other sites do). This site is still in Beta mode so some of its search features aren't the greatest, but it is a simple and straightforward way to look for love online.
For dating personals ...
is a quick and easy way to get started browsing personal ads from other users. You'll be able to read full profiles for free and see what they are looking for in a partner. The price to send e-mails and chats is about $25 per month, $50 for three months, or $75 for six months.
helps give you a second chance at missed connections. The site is designed to let you search and post messages for that person who caught your eye on the bus, at a concert, or anywhere else, but you didn't get the opportunity to talk to at the time. This site would be much better if it also searched for missed connection postings on other sites and in newspapers. But who knows? Maybe you'll find that special someone you never thought you'd see again.
is a free dating site that is integrated with a program called Skype that lets people talk over the Internet. This lets you talk to potential dates without having to give out your home phone number. The inconvenience of not being able to search for people by location (you search by gender, age, and interests instead) is mitigated by the site's services being entirely free.
The most popular dating sites surely have a numbers advantage over some of the niche dating sites but ultimately your search for a romantic match will be about quality, not quantity. Sure, on large dating sites you can choose certain preferred attributes in a mate, but you may still be matched with users who lack qualities that are very important to you (for example, you love animals, or you can't live without luxury). Niche dating sites are like swimming in a pond to find a like-minded mate, rather than drowning in a sea of mismatches.
- Lots of the more generic dating sites will let you browse user profiles without signing up for the service, but some of the niche dating sites ask you to create a profile before you browse to protect user privacy or to ensure that you are a serious about using the site.
- You'll be surprised how many niche dating sites are out there. If you don't see one that interests you in this guide, try a search for your interest and the phrase "dating." For example, there are sites for technology enthusiasts (www.gk2gk.com), sites for single military personnel (www.militarydate.com), and many more.
For sites that match hobbies or activities ...
helps match you with people who like to do the same things you do, and it's free. Movies, fishing, ice skating-whatever your hobby may be, this site has someone else who likes it too. You can search for other singles by activity, but perhaps the best feature of this site is that you can post a specific activity that you'd like a partner for (for example, going to the movies or a concert) and choose a date from the people who respond.
For those put off by the traditional online dating scene ...
It's Just Coffee
is for the witty, sarcastic, socially conscious, or arty to engage in no-pressure interaction online. The founder of the Web site takes the liberty of deleting the unworthy or creepy from the site at his own discretion. The site is free but you must register to search and view profiles. You'll find articles and advice here as well.
For pet owners or pet lovers ...
lets you create a detailed profile for yourself and for your pet. Unlike many other dating sites, here you can send e-mails to other users for free. Through a partnership with the Humane Society, you'll even find pet care tips
Date My Pet
allows you to search for friendship or love with someone who understands your love of your pet. You can search for users who are looking for romance, or you can look for "pet dates" that are not necessarily romantic but that involve you and your pet spending time with another user and pet (for example, a walk in the park with your dogs). Users post pictures and profiles of themselves and of their pets, and other users can rate the cuteness of the pet pictures. To purchase a membership (and be able to contact other members) you'll pay about $15/month or $40 for six months.
For older folks ...
is a free dating and friendship site for an older crowd. You can search profiles by location and then by age and relationship type (friendship, a serious relationship, or marriage). There are three chat rooms with telling names-lobby, gazebo, and boudoir-for engaging in different types of chat, a magazine with interactive polls, and blogs to keep you informed on the dating scene.
For those with special medical or physical considerations ...
specializes in matching people with medical and health conditions (such as STDs, cancer, HIV, obesity, and others) for friendship or romantic relationships.
is a large online community for people living with STDs as well as people interested in meeting others with STDs. The forum section of this site allows users to post concerns or questions about life, love, or questions specific to STDs. Guest membership is free and allows you to set up a profile and look at other profiles. If you want to initiate contact with other members you can sign up for gold membership for about $30/month (less if you sign up for more months at a time).
allows people (HIV/AIDS positive or negative) to meet and interact with others in a private and safe environment. POZ Personals is part of a larger site that has information, a calendar of events, and other resources for people living with HIV/AIDS.
For those who are most concerned with physical appearance ...
is a dating site driven by user photos. Browse photos of other users and mark them "yes," "no," or "mayB." All of your yeses will be saved and your photo will be secretly shown to those users. If they like your photo too, you can begin to contact each other through the site.
definitely wants only a certain usership: the extremely attractive. If you think that's you, be prepared for some harsh judgment by the other users of the site. In order to become a member, you must submit a photo and go through a trial membership period where other users vote on how good looking you are. If you don't make the cut, you won't be able to look for love on this free site.
For those looking for a wealthy mate ...
doesn't require that all of its members are millionaires, but it does boast a large usership of the wealthy and famous. Millionaires can actually become "certified" on this site by sending a few documents to the site as proof and thus increase their appeal to other users. You can browse member profiles and send form messages for free, but you'll have to pay to send e-mails or to have advanced profile search features. Depending on how long and what type of membership you subscribe to, you'll pay anywhere from about $16 to $30 per month.
Matchmaking services are nothing new, but the ease with which you can sign up for these services (or even play matchmaker yourself) has increased dramatically with the growth of the Internet. So if you'd prefer to have a human working to help determine your best romantic matches, or if you are looking for a service to get you involved in speed dating, you can still find what you need online.
- Some matchmaking services allow you to sign up online, whereas others merely list contact information on the Web and require that you participate in an in-person or over-the-phone interview process to determine your best matches. Because these services often involve a personal counselor or matchmaker to best suit your dating needs, they can be substantially more expensive than the online services that use computer programs to find matches for you.
- Speed dating brings together a group of singles in real-life events and gives you a few minutes with a number of potential partners (who you then rate and can potentially date). Online you should be able to see schedules of upcoming events and explanations of how each service works. Most events require preregistration, and you typically pay a fee for each event.
- The services listed below are either national or cater to a number of large cities. There are plenty of matchmaking and speed dating companies that serve only one or two cities. To find a local service, try searching for the type of service you want and your city name in a search engine like Ask.com or Zuula.com.
For speed dating ....
is an offshoot of Cupid.com that focuses on speed dating and holds monthly events in more than 100 U.S. cities. Click on the map on the homepage to find details for the upcoming activities in a nearby city. Events are usually organized for a specific age or interest group and costs run from about $20 to $40 each.
holds events in Canada and all over the United States where, for a fee, singles can have eight 8-minute dates in one night. To find an event near you, just choose your state and city (or choose "any" if you don't have a preference).
hosts real-world parties in a surprisingly large number of cities. For a fee, you can sign up online for a hosted party where you'll meet with a bunch of other singles for short intervals to see if you connect with any of them. Look for a party in your city, or sign up to meet people on the site. HurryDate also has a "Date Board" where you can browse activities that other members are interested in doing (or already have tickets for) and see if you'd like to go along, or post an activity yourself.
To pay someone to be a matchmaker for you ...
is one of the more established matchmaking resources. This service screens its users by meeting each one in person. On the site, you'll enter your name and zip code and be directed to a Great Expectations center in your area. If there isn't a location near you, you'll be directed to a partner site such as Great Dating.
Executive Lincoln Dating
is an online matchmaking service that matches you with other well-established professionals. You'll go through personal interviews and meetings with your matchmaking counselor to help you find love, but not without paying for it. Fees start around $1,000 for six months.
To let your friends do the work, or to become a matchmaker for your friends ...
lets you be a "looker" or a "helper." Lookers on the site are those looking for romance; you can post a profile and browse the profiles of others. Helpers on the site are there to help their friends find love; you can write stories about your single friends to help make their profiles more attractive to others, as well as virtually introduce them to other singles.
lets you recommend that great guy or girl that you know who is still single. Maybe it's your sister, maybe it's your ex-boyfriend; everyone on this site has been recommended by someone who knows them well. You must register before you can browse the recommended friends and try to find your perfect match.
offers free sign up, after which you can start making matches between your friends, or between other users. Search for potential matches by tag word, or vote on who you think would make a good match on the homepage.
If religion plays a prominent role in your life, consider joining an online dating community full of people who share your religious beliefs. These sites can be a great way to find a spiritual partner to share your life with, or a friend with whom you spend quality time.
- If religion doesn't play a role in your everyday life but you still think it is important to date someone who shares your same spiritual values on a basic level, many sites allow you to indicate how religious you are and match accordingly.
For some tips for religious dating online ...
TruDating's "Religious Dating Directory"
is a good place to visit if you have a hard time finding your religion on a mainstream site. Select your religious group and see a full list of dating Web sites from which you can choose.
For Christian online dating ...
is a Web site designated only for "marriage minded" Christian singles. If you are a serious Christian looking to settle down, this is the place for you.
allows you to search for potential matches and discover what kind of relationship each is looking for and what role faith plays in their life. You can get a free 7-10 day trial on this site; after that, membership is $35/month or $100/year.
is not designed exclusively for any religion, but it gets reviewed quite well by Christians looking for like-minded partners (the founder is an evangelical Christian). Members fill out an in-depth personality profile, so your matches end up being people who share your values.
For Catholic singles ...
enables members to meet each other and also to learn more about the Catholic faith. Get to know other members online, or check out the site's events calendar with real-life group activities for members.
For Jewish singles ...
is a popular dating site for Jews of all sects, and even for non-Jews interested in meeting Jews. Many married couples originally met on Jdate, but the site is also for casual dating and friendship.
is a dating-for-marriage site for Jewish people. Each profile is reviewed (some require telephone interviews) and the site claims to have exceptional personal customer service. Basic membership is free, but to contact other members or seek Frumster's dating advice, membership upgrade costs about $11/month.
allows you to create a guest membership for free that lets you search for other users, upload photos of yourself, and receive matches. If you'd like to initiate contact with other users on the site, an upgrade in membership costs from about $12 to $20/month depending on how many months you buy.
For Muslim singles ...
is for single Muslims with marriage in mind can meet via e-mail and, eventually, in person. The service is international and matches are often made from across the world.
is a Muslim dating site where you can meet friends, pen pals, and chat buddies in addition to Muslims interested in marriage. It's a good site if you're looking for a less serious relationship, and standard membership is free.
For Mormon singles ...
is a dating community for Mormons in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Trial membership is free and doesn't expire, but to initiate contact with other users you have to upgrade. Paid membership costs $10-$15/month depending on how many months you choose to purchase.
For Wiccan singles ...
is a Wiccan and Pagan site that is free to join, search, and contact other users. When you sign up you get an e-mail with 10 possible dates in your area.
The Internet has transformed dating for all populations, but the degree to which it has enhanced GLBT dating options is indescribable. No matter how small the GLB or T pool of potential dates in your city may seem, online you'll be able to expand your dating circle.
- You don't need to use a GLBT-specific dating site to find a same-sex date; many dating sites have same-sex dating options. Few traditional dating sites have transgender options, though.
- Have a sense of what you're looking for when you begin—particularly if you are a gay man. Some sites are more sex oriented, and some are more dating/relationship oriented. You'll have a better chance of finding what you're looking for if you target your search.
- Be honest, and be careful. If you misrepresent yourself online, you're unlikely to be able to maintain your charade in person. And remember that not everyone out there is who he or she claims to be. Be cautious about what personal information you disclose. And it's always a good idea to plan a first date in a safe, public place. If you're a teenager, stay away from sites catering to adults.
- If you're looking for transgender dating sites, avoid any sites that use the term "shemale." It's probably not a legitimate transgender site
For general GLBT sites ...
has a wealth of GLBT profiles. The personals are free to browse but paid membership is required to respond to profiles. Lesbians are unlikely to be approached by men on this site.
personals are more focused on gay men and a little more on sex. However, there are lesbian, bi, and trans profiles. Membership is required.
is a dating site that is free for women. It is not exclusively gay, but it is gay-friendly and caters to those seeking men, women, or both.
For gay online dating ...
helps gay men find long-term partners. This site is aimed at men who are looking for love and serious relationships rather than just a date. Great design with easy-to-browse content: just type in zip code, age range, or keyword, and Lovetastic will give you some matches. This site has clever, randomly generated profile questions such as "How do you waste your time?" or "If you could be in any movie, which would it be?"
For lesbian online dating ...
is a lesbian-specific dating site. Sign up for a three-day free trial and stay on free as a basic member or subscribe to interact with other members. There are forums, a business directory, and travel groups as well as profiles.
offers lesbian women a place to look for and chat with other lesbian women. Create a profile, search for users with shared interests, create a list of users you are interested in contacting, and see who's interested in contacting you.
For transgender dating sites ...
is a free transgender personals site. Search using a variety of criteria like location, age, the type of interaction you're looking for, and subcategory (for example, female-to-male transgendered men or women who like to dress as men). It includes warnings about how to avoid fake trans dating sites and Internet scams.
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