Online dating sites are databases that can match you to a partner with the qualities you prefer.
Eventually that site and others joined the internet, and today, dating sites in the US draw nearly 30 million unique visitors per month. There's no reason why you can't play the field with dating sites, but they vary widely in reputation. Though rating individual sites is beyond our scope, we've compiled recent rankings from several sites like Marie Claire, PC Mag, Wikipedia, Lifehacker, Mashable and more.
Our resident dating expert Tim Seppala prefers OKCupid, as do several other Engadget editors. Instead of making a long-term subscription commitment and regretting it, why not start with a free site?
Once you're ready to contact someone, GQ adds that it's best to keep messages cool and casual.
The bad news: Online dating (or any dating) has a seamy side, and women especially need to beware.
At the bottom rung are risky sites like AdultFriendFinder, aimed mostly at people looking purely for sex. Such sites have been accused of billing customers after they've canceled, inflating user figures with numerous fake profiles and rampant prostitution.
On top of more choice, PC Magazine pointed out that the site has "far more search options than we found in any other dating site," including physical appearance, exercise frequency and occupation, to name a few.
As you'd expect, that scientific approach is best for users looking for a long-term relationship.
According to PC Mag, it's better at filtering out unsuitable partners than making proactive matches.
That way you can test the waters, figure out what does and doesn't work and get a nice, tight profile before paying anything. As recounted by Jezebel, certain dates can go sideways, but at least you can laugh about them later. Scams abound on dating sites, and con men or women will often string marks along for months before swooping in for the score. Though it's tempting to just IM and message all day, you'll generally get a much better sense of someone over the phone.


A restaurant, mall or other public place is great for a first date, but a hotel room or private home is definitely not. They say the best education comes from your own mistakes, but do you know what's even better? The oldest dating site that's still around is Matchmaker, which started as a dial-up BBS in 1985 and ran on a RadioShack TRS-80 with six modems (above).
The downsides are the high price and constant requests for more cash to see who visited your page, for example.
Given the large number of user profiles, however, it might be a good place for a newbie to start before taking the subscription leap. And it does work: According to eHarmony, 90 of its members get married every day (you can read some of the touching testimonials here). Some sites will give you a free trial with a credit card, but automatically start billing unless you cancel the subscription -- which is often difficult to do. However, there are plenty of deranged individuals out there who look at dating sites and see a trove of potential victims. If anybody insists on having your phone number or other private info, it's a strong red flag. A typical scam might be similar to a Nigerian con: Somebody needs money to, say, import a large inheritance, and if you can just help them out, they'll pay you back, double. Make sure to touch base with a friend or relative to let them know when and where you'll be for a date. Ideally, it brings together like-minded couples in a non-threatening virtual space, so they can get to know each other before committing to a physical date. At first, it was a crude listing of mostly computer nerds within the same area code, but it grew to include email exchanges and became one of the largest pre-web email networks. Another well-known, mobile-only site is Tinder, which lets you quickly like or reject suitors in your area. On the downside, the site -- which started as a Christian network -- targets primarily heterosexual couples. According to Marie Claire, action photos that show you playing sports or the guitar get the most messages. Our Managing Editor Dana Wollman recalls meeting several nerdy dates online who, upon learning her job, proceeded to talk all evening about gadgets.


Beware of signing up long-term (even if the price is tempting) and make sure it's easy to cancel your subscription. On top of the countless mainstream sites, there are specialized ones to help you find someone with the same religion, interests and sexual preferences -- whether you're seeking a friendly relationship, life partner or a one-night stand.
There are also specialty sites like Adam4Adam for gay men, or JDate (below) and ChristianMingle, aimed at Jewish and Christian singles, respectively.
It only started allowing gay and lesbian users in 2010 after it was forced to by a lawsuit. One pro tip for trials: Many credit card companies will give you a virtual account number to use, which you can limit in time and value. Meanwhile, your self-description should be free of "long walks on the beach" tropes, and focus concisely on specific things you love, fun facts about yourself and sociable hobbies -- not activities you do alone. For a deeper dive into the sociology of online dating, check out Vice's chat with New York Magazine columnist Maureen O'Connor. There are serious pitfalls to avoid, of course: dodgy sites, "catfishing" and, worst of all, online predators.
Meanwhile, check out PCMag's comprehensive reviews, along with The Dating Gurus (which also has general dating advice) and Wikipedia (which shows traffic, trustworthiness and more). Finally, ask friends to read your profile, since they might know certain things about you better than you do. If you actually pay attention to the other person and read the signals, you'll avoid such faux pas. Here's an example of a date gone wrong from our own Tim: "I went out with a really cute girl for three weeks, and then she suddenly tried passing me off to her (much less cute) roommate. Most of us know at least one person who's met their partner online -- if you don't, I'm one of them.
It's a very, very deep topic and we've left out huge swaths like speed dating, virtual dating, dating assistants and others we haven't even thought of.



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