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The Best Online Dating Sites for People Just Starting Out

A couple laughing while looking at their phone after meeting on one of the best online dating sites.

Since debuted in the mid-90s, the online dating space has exploded with Market Research estimating the industry’s value at $1.75 billion dollars in the U.S. alone as of 2018. With that kind of money and popularity, comes options, which is a good thing, but the surplus of options can be overwhelming this if you’re new to online dating.

You’ve probably heard of most of the popular online dating sites and apps through your friends or ads, but the nuance can get lost in the translation. To help you find the online dating site that’s best for you, here are the six best online dating sites for people new to the game.

Tinder is one of the most popular dating apps out there for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, because everyone’s on it. As of 2014, Tinder boasted a whopping 50 million users. The app popularized the swipe right for yes and swipe left for no format, simplifying the online dating process to a small finger motion. When two people swipe right on each other, it’s a match, they start chatting, and then it’s off to the races.

Tinder profiles are fairly simple, consisting of up to six photos and a bio of up to 500 characters, and are linked to Facebook or your phone number. If you have the photos on hand, you should be able to set up a high quality profile in as little as 20 minutes.

While Tinder does offer premium options for subscribers, even without paying you can still send messages and swipe right a limited number of times each day. The app does tend to skew younger, but for all the above reasons if you’re new to online dating it’s worth a shot.

When Tinder popularized swiping on dating apps, many clones followed suit. Without a doubt, Bumble was the most successful to copy the formula. Bumble is almost identical to Tinder in its layout and interface, with the main difference being that in a straight couple match women have to message the men first (for same-sex couples there are no messaging restrictions).

Founder and CEO of Bumble, White Wolfe Herd, is also a Tinder co-founder, but left Tinder after two years and eventually sued the company in a sexual harassment lawsuit. In part, this and the rampant offensive messages by men became the inspiration for the ladies first system that Bumble uses. Herd calls Bumble a feminist dating app, and it 2017 the app boasted a whopping 22 million people on its service.

Bumble’s set up is simple, so it’s great for new users. If you’re new to online dating, this is another great place to start.

OkCupid is one of the older sites in the game and has some of the best name recognition. Good name rec means more people, which is always good for a dating app. OkCupid takes a high effort, high reward approach to the online dating space, asking daters to work a little bit harder to get to the date for the payoff of a higher quality date.

To set up an account, link your Facebook account or phone number, upload your photos, and start answering some questions. In addition to the questions that help you find out how compatible you are with other people, the OkCupid profile gives you around 20short-answer prompts to choose from that you can fill out to give other singles a peek into your personality. It’s recommended to fill out as many out as possible.

Last, you’ll be asked to answer any number of hundreds of multiple choice questions ranging from whether you like dogs, to your political party preference. Through some combination of your answers and other profile components, OkCupid offers a percentage match rating with the other people you see. It’s recommended to answer as many as possible, but there are hundreds so no need to knock them all out on your first login.

Hinge is a relatively new player that bills itself as the relationship app. The setup is relatively quick, requiring daters to upload six photos or videos and answer three short-answer prompts. The prompts include things like “we should date if…” or “my favorite vacation memory is…” Once you’re done, you’re all good to get matching.

Hinge ditches the swiping format, instead allowing daters to comment on the individual photos or prompts of other people’s profiles to show interest. However, you only get one comment. Then, if that person likes you back, you can chat. Once again, Hinge is more relationship-minded, so if that’s your inclination, this is a great place to start.

Happn takes location-based dating to the next level. This hyper localized dating app serves up people that you’ve physically crossed paths with. Yep, that’s right. No more missed connections, or, at least, that’s the hope. Happn has a very quick setup through your Facebook account, then you’re free to start sending off those likes. Not too much to say, except that it tends to skew younger and there may not be  very many people on it if you’re in a more rural area, but it’s great for cities.

(Full-disclosure: The Date Mix is owned by Zoosk.) That said Zoosk has been around for over 10 years and has one of the largest pools of daters in the game. Zoosk is strictly pay to play, but once you’re in there are a lot of high quality singles to choose from and it’s easy to get started.

Zoosk offers a variety of different features to help you find dates in the way that best suits your style. The search function allows daters to set advanced filters and screen for other singles that fit any number of different criteria from religion to height to education. Daters can also look for matches through SmartPick, which offers singles that are algorithmically picked for you based on your in-app activity, and Carousel, which is a feed of singles that say yes or no to based on a trimmed down profile view. All of these come together to offer a diverse online dating experience.  

Plenty of Fish
Plenty of Fish (POF) is a free to message site with a large number of daters between the ages of 30 and 40. While POF has quite a long questionnaire that needs to be completed for signup (which include some questions about salary, body type, and the like), after the initial setup the process is pretty easy.

As I mentioned, messaging is free, so you can contact connections you make either through likes you’ve sent in search, the localized Nearby function, or through the rapidfire Tinder-style Meet Me. Premium plans also unlock additional features, such as searching who viewed you, who sends you likes, and uploading extra photos.
Last on the list is Match was the first online dating service, and as such has one of the biggest pools of daters to choose from. They’ve also recently redesigned the service so the experience is much more smooth. Match offers a lot of profile customizability and long essay sections for sharing personal information. If you’re good at writing about yourself, then Match may be the site for you.

Like most other dating sites, it offers a rapidfire style swiping format, but also a search function to find people that meet your specifications.

Match is a paywall site though, so while you can look to see who’s on the service, you’ll have to pay to send or look at messages.

There are enough obstacles to online dating, selecting a site shouldn’t be one of them. So pick one (or all of them) and get to dating.

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