How Does It Work

There are two kinds of online dating services: matchmaking services, which use compatibility tests to match you up with potential beaus, and personals sites, which allow you to browse through all the profiles and contact whomever you please.

Online dating services function as a business by offering memberships to people who want to use all the services they have to offer. Usually, they allow you to browse their database for free to "hook" you. Most services also let you post a profile for free. However, if you want to contact anyone on the site, you must pay a membership fee, which can range from $19.95 a month to $49.95 a month.

In order to make sure you get the most for your money, you need to consider the following:

• How many profiles they have in their database. The more profiles they have in their database, the more chance that one of those profiles will be a woman right for you. You may also wish to check how many profiles are in your geographical area.

• What clientele they cater to. If you are only interested a particular sort of partner—someone with the same religion, ethnic background, or specific hobby—then you may want to try one of the specialized dating services. There are services for people seeking serious, long-term relationship (such as Yahoo! Personals Premium) and other services for people seeking casual hookups. There are services for seniors and services for single parents. These specialized services tend to have a smaller database but offer more chance of finding someone compatible with you.

• Whether or not non-members can reply to you. Most matchmaking services, in order to increase the size of their database, allow non-members to create and post free profiles. However, many sites, such as eHarmony. com and AmericanSingles.com, require that both individuals be paid members before they can communicate. Other sites, like FriendFinder, have a better system. Only one individual has to be a paid member, and membership enables him or her to send messages to whomever he or she likes. Once the member sends a message to another person, that person can respond regardless of whether or not he or she is a paid member.

• What other services they offer. All online services, at the mere minimum, offer the ability to browse through members' profiles and exchange email messages. Many online services, though, are distinguishing themselves from the pack by offering other services. Some offer chat rooms, instant messaging, keyword searching, quizzes, and the ability to send "smiles," "teases," or other pre-programmed indications of interest.

Take a moment to browse through and familiarize yourself with the look and feel of some of the major online dating sites. You can tell a lot about the clientele of the site by browsing through profiles of their members.

www.match.com

personals.yahoo.com

www.eharmony.com

www.lavalife.com

www.americansingles.com

www.friendfinder.com

www.matchmaker.com

www.dreammates.com

www.udate.com

An excellent source of reviews of online dating services can be found at:

www.onlinedatingmagazine.com

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