Jenna Slater, 27, lives in San Diego and found the entire notion of meeting people online daunting. “Dating apps have always been hard for me because even though I find myself hilarious, that struggles to come across via text,” she says. “I also work insane hours and simple don’t have the time to swipe hoping the person swipes me back.” Tinder was decidedly not for her, and she began to think dating apps in general might be a bust, until she found Hinge.
We created three made-up online dating profiles and spent five days trying out each service and monitoring the responses our fake profiles received. We created a woman seeking a man, a man seeking a woman and a woman seeking a woman to make sure our data was well-rounded. All three profiles were similarly generic: They were white with bachelor’s degrees with low to midrange full-time jobs. To create these accounts we had to make fake email accounts and, for some sites, fake Facebook accounts and phone numbers as well.
Since our last round of testing, the dating app Hinge has gained lots of popularity. Founded in 2012, it's similar to Tinder but emphasizes matching you with people you share Facebook friends with. Once you’re out of Facebook connections, you start seeing potential matches you have fewer friends in common with. You're able to see each user's job, educational background, physical traits and a short biography. Scroll through users and select the ones you'd like to get to know better. If that user likes you back, you're connected via the app's messaging platform.
It’s not perfect. The quiz show format won’t appeal to everyone, and the slow burn and winner-takes-all aspect mean it’s going to be a lot harder to get a date than in other apps. Also, featured dater spots are currently only open to straight women, so there’s not much here for lesbians or gay men yet, though there are plans to expand to male bachelors and LGBTQ+ episodes. You also need to email the company to apply to be a featured dater, which means it’s not exactly a pick-up-and-go app if you’re wanting to be the featured dater. However, if you’re bored of regular dating apps, or if you’re simply attracted to the fun elements and the prospect of finding love is a bonus, then give Quiz Date Live a go.

Changes in the last year have made OkCupid a bit more like Tinder, focusing more on swiping and eliminating the ability to message a user without matching with them first. You can still send a message, it just won't show up in the recipient's inbox unless you match. Because who doesn't love sending a thoughtful message to someone who might never see it? However, OkCupid has pointed out that these changes did help lower the number of offensive messages users received, which might not be the worst thing.
Even within these categories, however, there's room to find your niche. With apps catering for specifics like religious dating and gay dating, it's vital to find the community that is best suited to your needs. And, if you're a busy single professional looking for a long-term relationship, then you might want to try finding your community with the EliteSingles dating app. 
We all want to get more out of our personal life. So, what if you aren't looking for a serious relationship but just want to enjoy relaxed and fun chatting with an exciting flirt? This is perfect for when you might only be seeking a fun date. If you don’t tend to go online to find someone with whom you can spend the rest of your life, OneNightFriend will be an ideal solution.
Zoosk might not have the name recognition of a Match.com, but that doesn't mean it isn't a quality online dating platform. Zoosk is a bona fide star in the world of online dating sites, offering a fantastic experience for people who are looking to find a real love connection and get serious. Their site offers an extremely smooth and modern online dating experience, and it's packed with singles with real profiles and real potential.

Appearances can be deceiving, though. Although Coffee Meets Bagel allows for a range of super-specific preferences, the bagel it sends you may or may not match your specified preferences and, more often than not, if they do, they will be a significant distance away. The app can also be glitchy, often resulting in slow update and load times, and sometimes it’s frustrating that it sends you only a single bagel a day. You can speed things up a bit by using the “give & take” option, but it’ll cost you 385 beans to like someone who catches your eye.
But what is it about Tinder in particular that appeals to millennials? "Raised on video games and coming of age during social media, it's not surprising that the average millennial gets bored easily and can have a short attention span — [and] Tinder is ideal for this," Jonathan Bennett, dating/relationship expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "After all, you don't need to wade through someone's life history to find them attractive. Tinder gives you the essentials and you can make a choice from there."
If you're willing to pay for it, The League is a dating app that does all the work for you. You’ll need active Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to log in, and you'll be assessed based on the information you've provided on these profiles, like your education and professional career. On top of that, you have to fill out an application and then are placed on a waiting list for an undetermined period of time that varies by the city you live in. Once you’re a member, you’ll have access to a personal concierge who does a lot of the work for you and helps curate your profile.
Even free dating websites and apps give you the option to sign up for a premium option, which does in fact cost you. Premium options cost about $10 each month for basic service, or if you want more effective pairing with people you’re more likely to get along with for an average of $40 per month. You could also pay less if you purchase a membership for several months at a time.
Chat room apps can be decent dating apps if you're the right type of person. Some people don't mind online dating and some people may actually prefer it. Chat room apps give you a chance to join tons of chat rooms, find people with similar interests, and get to know them better. It definitely helps scratch that social itch that single people often get and the online aspect makes it a little easier to manage. Of course, it doesn't substitute a good cuddle or other real human contact. However, we thought it would be a good idea to mention that this is an option to cover every conceivable base. We have a list of chat room apps you can find by clicking on the button above.
As a result, when considering what's available these days in free online dating terms, the message is pretty clear: Finding people online to go on dates with doesn't cost you much money — or any money, for that matter — so you can save your hard-earned cash for the dates you actually go on. If online dating is something you're thinking about, you really have nothing to lose by trying out a free dating site. 

Specifying the age range and gender that you're looking for in a partner does squat to narrow down your options. Considering Zoosk sees a user base of about 40 million members, getting through all profiles that match your requirements could take ages, especially if you're looking for more than a hookup. By monitoring your swiping behavior, Zoosk can tap into your subconscious (okay, not really, but sorta) and give you what you want deep down. However, if you want to boost your profile or send more than a few messages, you'll have to buy and participate in Zoosk's coin game, which is more irritating than fun.


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Similar to other traditional players, OKCupid has in-depth user bios, but profile building isn't long or tedious at all — the questions are smart (and not mushy) and they're genuinely fun to answer. It does use swiping like Tinder, but you have a lot more to go off of than a lame bio and a selfie. You'll even get to see the percentage of how much you have in common based on question answers (and how much you don't). Speaking of questions, OkCupid has some that you won't see anywhere else: The same-sex couple ads are an obvious giveaway, but OkCupid has snuck in questions to weed out more conservative-minded people as a way to tell right off the bat if your potential match leans left or right. (It's not perfect, but it'll help meeting in person go a lot smoother.) Liberal ladies found that this worked to their advantage, as OkCupid released statistics showing that liberal-leaning answers to those questions made you 80% more likely to find love on the site. The entire site's ethos is built around numbers, and it's nice to know they can actually back up their algorithms. 


One thing to note if you don't fall into the cis-hetero dating pool: While most of the apps reviewed here are inclusive, there are those that are friendlier to the LGBTQ community than others. For example, OkCupid goes beyond forcing users to choose between being a male or female, including options like Hijra, genderfluid, and two-spirit. If you're a man seeking a man or a woman seeking a woman, you'll want to steer clear of eharmony: It doesn't even give you the option of a same-sex match.
Are you tired of finding what looks like that special someone, then having to pay to send him or her a message? Not only does POF let you send notes for free, but it offers helpful tools to make messaging easier and faster. This includes the Spark function, which prompts you to talk about parts of other users' profiles that you find interesting. That said, the interface feels plain and clunky, and serves up ads more often than other services.
The site has profile verification options to ensure you are matching with real people and not fake profiles. On top of that, the site has a Smart Match system that essentially allows it to learn your preferences the more you use it, and the option to send a “Mega Flirt” that reaches dozens of inboxes every 15 minutes. It's a site you won't easily grow bored of that aims to help you become a better dater.
Dating is hard work, so we did some of the legwork for you by taking a deep dive into seven of the most popular apps. Check out our brief thoughts on each below, and then click through to read our in-depth reviews. Everyone's needs and wants are different, so not every app will be a great fit for you, but if we can help play a part in uniting you with your forever person or your Friday-night fling, we're here to help.
That sort of massive following is a selling point in itself, but Plenty Of Fish has more going for it than just pure size. It’s something of a “lite” version of other dating apps, and includes Tinder’s swiping mechanics, and a Happn-style ability to see matches near to you. It does have its own little twists on the formula — POF’s “Spark” system allows users to quote any part of their amour’s profile, making icebreakers that much easier.
How it works: Like a good wingman (or wing woman), Zoosk starts to understand you more and more as time goes on to help introduce you to the person you can spend the night or rest of your life with. The site's unique algorithm recognizes your preferences through the actions you take. The more you interact with the site, the better it can match you with your ideal human. 
Why it's awesome: On OkCupid, users can offer a ton of information about themselves through the site's Match Questions. Examples include: "Would you date someone who keeps a gun in the house?" or "Should the government require children be vaccinated for preventable diseases?" The answers to these questions help OkCupid determine which members might be a good match for one another. Of note: Per OkCupid's own stats, liberal women in particular have luck on the site. And in 2017, the site offered users the chance to answer 50 "current events" questions that illuminate a user's politics."OkCupid has been a favorite of mine for years," Spira says. "I always liked OkCupid because they have a great critical mass and they have the thought-provoking questions that really allow you to think about how you feel about some of these issues, whether it’s politics or gun control, and how do you feel about your date’s answers. People spend a lot of time on site just perusing the questions that other people answer, and I like that."
How it works:  To be honest, there aren't that many places where people who are more introspective can congregate in the outside world. That kind of goes against the idea of being shy. Sure there are clubs and parities, but if you're really shy it's nearly impossible to meet anyone there. This website is the solution. The website's matching system uses your preferences, location, and interests to match you with others. It even offers expert tips to help you overcome your shyness.  
Pitched at a slightly older, more professional crowd than many other dating apps (our average member age is 30-55), EliteSingles is a great fit for those who want to add love to their list of success. With high levels of education (91% of Canadian users are educated to Bachelor's degree level or higher); and a wide range of professions, EliteSingles members are interesting, dynamic people who are united by their desire to find a truly compatible match. 
“We can’t live with it sometimes, but we can’t live without it either. I’ve had my fair share of horror stories, but my female friends are the ones who get the real zingers. There are men who don’t know how to communicate with women whatsoever. There is a massive disconnect. [My male friends will] ask me why they can’t get any matches and more often than not, I tell them, ‘Maybe saying something crass in the first five messages isn’t such a good idea.'”
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