In the past, I was asked by many clients “Are free online dating sites really worth it”? Initially, I saw the possibility that free online dating sites like Plenty of Fish long, long ago may have offered a solution for people that wanted to “dip their toe “ into the online dating pool. This quickly turned into a cesspool of scammers, sex workers, and identity thieves all taking advantage of the elderly or the very lonely.
Nowadays, I feel there are two types of free dating sites … the old school sites that still harbor the scammers and grifters and the modern free dating sites which offer a free tier of service and then allow you to pay for additional services.
Nonetheless, the situation is the same whether you’re using a paid site or a free online dating site. You’re in a competition for the attention of the other daters. Therefore, you need to create the best profile possible to attract the right people to you …and in the case of some of the free online dating sites you need to know how to spot fake profiles too!
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In my opinion, you have to ask yourself; “Are free online dating sites really any good or do you really only get what you pay for”?
Many people seem interested in online dating but rather than make an investment in their future or their relationships they decide to take a chance on free online dating sites.
While many free dating sites may have started out with the best intentions the results today are anything but acceptable. These sites tend to be havens for cheapskates, hookups, and grifters vying for attention.
Online dating sites are plentiful these days. But, many people question the effectiveness of free online dating sites. In order to see if they are worth it or not, we must first determine what is considered a good site and why there’s so much interest in them in the first place.
“Are free online dating sites really any good or do you really only get what you pay for”?
There are plenty of reasons that people would want to use an online dating site: they’re looking for love, companionship, or maybe just someone new to talk with on a daily basis. Some hesitate to make the investment and try to use free online dating sites hoping that they will find what they are looking for without having to pay anything.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of many of the free online dating sites is low. These sites tend to be havens for cheapskates, hookups, and grifters vying for attention. They have been flooded with scammers who take advantage of other people’s loneliness in order to steal their money or just chat them up for a while before disappearing into thin air. In order to avoid being taken advantage of it is important that you check out what some of these free online dating site scams are as well as why you might want to spend a bit to get on a paid dating site.
Here’s one of my biggest concerns when it comes to Free Online Dating Sites, “ You get what you pay for”. In my experience, the older free dating sites only attract people that aren’t really committed to finding someone to really date or start a relationship with. They tend to just be “just trolling the waters” or just looking for Hookups. Hence the quality of the dates are low, you find a preponderance of sex workers or worse lots and lots of scammers.
Some of the most common scams are people who pose as females and say they are looking for a long-term relationship but in reality, they just want to chat you up for a while and then ask for money. It’s important that you don’t give out your personal information or be fooled by a good profile pic because these can all be fake.
These types of scams typically start with some type of correspondence such as emails or messages which is followed by an innocent conversation about things like movies, music, and books before long, however, the conversation usually turns to money. Either they start to probe you about your finances or start with a sob story about how they (or their mother) need ” just a few hundred” dollars to get through and then they can pay it all back. Many times individuals especially older online daters and the very lonely are ripe “Marks” for these soulless creatures that seem to prey on others in the free online dating sites.
We all know that you can’t always trust strangers, especially on the internet. It is a known fact that online dating sites are not just for people looking to find love but also for people who want to make money. With some of these dating sites, there may be someone who wants to contact you and they might start off by saying something nice or complimenting your profile picture before asking if they could help them out with some financial difficulties.
The truth is, many free online dating sites have been flooded with scammers and fake profiles.
Even if you try a free dating site it’s still a competition, so you need to step up your games and spend some $$ on great photos and a well-written profile. A selfie and some half-A$$ed profile isn’t going to attract the right person and is just going to send the wrong message about you entirely. So even if the site is “free” you’re still going to want to spend some money or time and effort to make a great profile.
Now let’s take a look at the current situation of modern free online dating sites ….
Though the world of online dating had already experienced a rapid surge of popularity in the years prior, a post covid19 world has undoubtedly revealed its importance.
As sovereign and local governments still struggle to contain the remnants and strains of this deadly contagion, bars, restaurants, concerts, and other forms of social gatherings remain constricted if not outright banned (link to UK and France lockdowns).
With the majority of the world’s population stuck inside their homes and living quarters, there is an obvious build-up of demand to socialize and meet other individuals, that grows exponentially stronger over time. It’s been exactly one year since the covid19 lockdown in the United States when the world and life as we know it undeniably changed forever.
Because of the enhanced difficulty of meeting would-be dating partners randomly in this strict post-covid19 world, online dating sites and applications have grown hugely in popularity.
But what separates these individual online dating sites from one another? And how do they stack comparatively in terms of quality potential partners? We will now take a brief dive into the six most popular, free, online dating applications and websites. Let’s begin.
Tinder is the most popular online dating app world-wide, and was launched originally in 2012. Pre-covid, they had nearly 8 million registered users just within the United States. By March 2020, just as the covid19 lockdowns were beginning throughout the world, Tinder’s monthly visits globally had nearly breached 59 million. Tinder represents the most popular online dating application of the dating conglomerate Match Group, Inc. which also owns OkCupid, Hinge, and PlentyOfFish amongst others.
In its most recent earnings report on February 21st, Match reported an average of 66 million monthly average users for the 2020 fiscal year, with annual revenues of approximately $1.4 billion.
As one of the first dating apps, Tinder executes the “double opt-in” mode, meaning both users must swipe right on each other for the ability to connect and message. Users post several pictures of themselves as well as a short bio. They then can start swiping left – if they do not wish to match – or right – if they wish to match.
As mentioned, Tinder is currently the world’s most popular dating app, with a monthly average of 66 million users globally. For the fiscal year of 2020, its quarterly user growth has grown at a blistering pace. Although 2021 will undoubtedly be another strong year for Tinder, it will be difficult to sustain its staggering growth since being acquired by Match Group in 2017.
Though Tinder colloquially is known as a “hookup app” meaning users’ primary motivation is a casual sexual encounter, a recent survey reported that only 23% of Tinder users chose to use the app for this very reason, whereas 31% reported as using it for a romantic, long-term relationship.
There have been numerous reports of fake accounts and the like, however, this is an unfortunate side-effect of all dating applications. Further, you only have a set number of daily swipes on Tinder (roughly 100). Therefore, if you prefer unlimited swipes you must pay for their premium services – i.e., Tinder Plus (which allows for unlimited swipes) or Tinder Gold (which allows for the former and also to see who has swiped right on you already).
These premium features cost from $19.99 to $29.99 per month, respectively, although there are annual options as well at much lower monthly rates.
Second to only Tinder in monthly users and revenues, Bumble is a stand-alone dating application (meaning it is not owned by a parent company like Tinder) and recently became a publicly-traded company in early 2021. It was founded by former Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd and Badoo founder Andrey Andreev.
In its most recent earnings report in March 2021, Bumble reported annual revenues of $958.8 billion.
Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd had left Tinder after harassment allegations that were later settled. She wanted Bumble to have a unique aspect besides the double opt-in aspect that was made popular by her former company, Tinder.
Therefore, she designed Bumble so that after matching, women must message first in order to initiate the messaging. This was revolutionary because women now have to take an extra step in solidifying a connection, as opposed to simply allowing for either party to message previously. In the end, Bumble works incredibly well
As mentioned, Bumble is the second most popular dating app behind Tinder, though its overall user and revenue growth has not been privy to the blistering pace as we saw from the latter. A reason for this is perhaps, even though the women must message first is a distinct feature on Bumble, male users are perhaps impatient, and thus prefer the ease of Tinder which allows for any party to message immediately.
Similar to Tinder, Bumble has a limited number of daily swipes that are available for free (also ~100). Their premium features also offer unlimited swipes, as well as the ability to see who has swiped right on you already (similar to Tinder Plus and Tinder Gold and more or less around the same cost).
Additionally, Bumble offers a connection service for friends (i.e., Bumble Friends), as well as for business connections (Bumble Business).
Though the proliferation of fake accounts is drastically less so than on Tinder, it still occurs. Overall, from a strictly prospective dating partner quality perspective, Bumble easily outranks Tinder (its monthly usage and revenue growth notwithstanding).
Match is one of the original online dating websites (not an application like Tinder and Bumble) founded in 1993. Its parent company is Match Group, Inc. – a publicly-traded firm that is listed on the NASDAQ Composite Index.
Besides Match.com, Match Group owns a plethora of dating sites and applications, namely:
And others. Its annual revenue for the fiscal year ending December 2020 equated to $3.075 billion, with Tinder accounting for nearly a third of those sales.
Match.com is your typical dating website. You set up an online profile with pictures, a profile, as well as a biography, and then you go about “matching” and reaching out to particular profiles of people that you wish to connect with. Match offers a compatibility rating that uses an algorithm to automatically match your profile tastes with other similar profiles.
Although the recent popularity in dating applications – like Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge – has crashed traditional dating websites like Match.com and PlentyOfFish, Match still boasts nearly 21 million active users.
The standalone benefit of a dating website as opposed to the “one-picture-at-a-time swipe” applications of Tinder and Bumble is that it allows users to sort through matches immediately – users can sort for age, height, hair color, and other profile keywords, for free.
If you want to send and receive messages, however, this is where match’s premium services come into play. So, to further any connection with your matches, you must generally pay a premium (annual subscriptions cost around $16 per month).
Similar to Match, OKCupid is another dating website founded in 2004. It was acquired by InterActiveCorp (the precursor to Match Group, Inc.) in 2012 for $50 million. Its annual revenues are estimated to be within $100 and $500 million.
OKCupid works similar to Match.com. Users set up a picture and profile/biography, and can then search for other profiles based on their preferences. Though similar to the dating apps – Tinder and Bumble – there is a double opt-in feature, meaning both users must like each other’s profile before being able to connect/message each other.
Though OKCupid is part of the publicly listed firm Match Group, Inc. its actual usage and revenue growth has not been stated, unlike for Tinder (which drives the majority of Match Group’s earnings).
Similar to Match.com, the majority of OKCupid (i.e., setting up a picture, profile, and begin matching) is free, up to a point. Its premium services allow for a greater narrowing down of matches (i.e., the ability to sort for the particular partner you are interested in). Its basic premium plan begins at $11.99 per month.
Prior to Tinder, PlentyOfFish was the world’s largest dating site, boasting 100 million users in 2015. The dating site was founded in 2003, and was ultimately purchased by Match Group, Inc. in 2015 for $575 million. It is a dating website (rather than an application) similar to Match and OKCupid. As of September 2019, it boasted over 4 million active users per year (just within the United States).
Similar to OKCupid and Match, PlentyOfFish is free to set up and start using – users make a profile with pictures and a bio, and can then begin searching for desired partners. There is no double opt-in feature as with OKCupid, thus allowing users to connect and freely message anyone they wish.
Since being acquired by Match Group, Inc. in 2015, revenue and user growth has been behind a corporate veil. Though overall Match Group’s revenues have been growing tremendously, a large part of that growth is due to Tinder.
Similar to OKCupid and Match, setting up a profile (picture plus bio) and searching for and connecting with matches is free. There are optional upgrades for the ability to narrow your search preferences. Ultimately, it is safe to state that OKCupid has dropped off in popularity in the advent of simple double opt-in dating apps like Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge. It still remains the most popular dating website however in terms of registered users, beating Match, Zoosk, and other website rivals.
Facebook Dating was launched in September of 2019. Facebook is the largest social network in the world, boasting nearly 3 billion monthly active users (which is nearly one third of the world’s population, for reference). Thus, with that many active users, a casual segue into the online dating market seemed natural.
Facebook Dating is seamlessly integrated into your overall Facebook profile. It is only available via mobile currently. There are no additional downloads needed. Facebook Dating is also kept separate from your regular Facebook profile. Instead of swiping left or right, you can add a heart to someone you wish to match with, or an “x.” When two people have both added a heart on each other’s profile, they can begin messaging.
One very unique feature that is limited to Facebook Dating is a “Secret Crush” feature, which allows you to match with friends already part of your Facebook friends’ network and Instagram followers. If your secret crush also adds you then the messaging can begin. This is certainly a nifty use of Facebook’s current network capabilities.
In their annual earnings call in 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that there were no particular growth statistics to share in regards to its dating component, although that “it’s going well.”
Facebook Dating is completely free – perhaps the only online dating accessory to be 100% free (i.e., offer no premium features for additional likes or messages, etc.). The most obvious benefit to using Facebook Dating is its convenience – since nearly everyone has a Facebook profile already, a dating feature is easily transferable.
In the current times of postcovid19, where nations and local governments still struggle with quarantine restrictions, the ability to meet people is becoming stronger than ever. The surging popularity of dating applications, namely Tinder and Bumble, reveals that the number one desire for consumers globally is convenience or ease of use.
Conversely, the decline of traditional online dating websites like Match.com, PlentyOfFish, and OKCupid portrays that consumers no longer wish to set up timely profiles and bios when they can easily set one up on a gentle user interface like Tinder or Bumble.
Ultimately, for users desiring a quality long-time romantic partner, in my honest opinion, Bumble (and Hinge – not listed here) offer the best selection.
Until life can go back to normal and people can meet each other randomly in social outings, online dating is here to stay.
About the Author
Claire Bahn has over 15 years of working as a personal branding expert helping clients build authority and influence through their online profiles and social media accounts.
Her background includes branding, public relations, Social Media, and marketing, as well as, entrepreneurship. She has a passion to help executives, entrepreneurs, and influencers strategize and create their best personal brand.
She is currently the CEO and Co-founder of Online Profile Pros and Stratus Branding. Ms. Bahn recognizes that first impressions are made online and the fastest way to achieving your goals is by taking command of your personal brand through your online profiles and social media. She started Online Profile Pros and Stratus Branding to help individuals create, maintain and protect their personal brands so that they achieve the authority, influence, and trust they need to succeed at online dating or their job search.
She’s been featured in numerous publications and news outlets including Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines, as well as, many other publications and podcasts.
Ms. Bahn is a former model and actress, appearing in national ad campaigns for major retailers. An avid fashion/lifestyle blogger she’s a recognized influencer. Ms. Bahn holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, CA with her 2 red miniature pinchers, Beau and Trixie.