Dating Serivce Comparisons
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Ok. Let's get one thing straight. Dating services are a horrible way to find a new date/mate. People are just plain stupid and ask for the most incredible number of impossible combinations imaginable. It reminds me of a Sean Morey song about "the man that doesn't exist".
Second, the various services all differ in what they offer in the way of data you can search on, how much security you hide behind (double blind email systems, etc.) and how deeply you'll be digging into your wallet to set them up. What I've went through here is the list of places I've been trying to find a date and listed what I liked and disliked about each of them.
One of the first ones I found, turned out to be one of the crappiest web applications I've ever seen. When you "sign up", they pass you a login id number (of their choosing). You don't have to have a password, just the id. Next, their searching engine is something my 11-year old could have come up with. It's basic, and not very configurable at all. I never even got to the point of asking them how much it was. Over all, this service is not one I'd recommend.
This is a dating service that I came across thanks to Google. Their searching engine isn't too good, their price (24.95/mon) is average, and the number of responses I got from their service was zero. To mail a message to another user, you had to log into their web site (same for reading email). This was a drag, in that their "message interface" wasn't overly featurefull.
They did have a kinda cool feature. You could show interest in someone for free. What this did was just raise a flag and tell the other person that you had shown an interest in them. This was, I think, designed as a way to entice you into buying their service.
This service is actually run by a third party for salon.com. It is far better than any of the previous services in it's ability to setup "you". It also offers a rather interesting payment system. Each email you send out costs a credit. You get 25 credits for $24.95 or so. Kind of a pay as you play, no time limit.
I've gotten more responses out of match.com's community of dating folks than any of the others combined. Not that that's saying much (3-4 non-"buzz off" replies), but it's still one of my favorites. Using their service, you can setup multiple searches (up to 5) and then reuse/edit them at a later date...as your criteria change.
Also, they run one of the only true double blind mailers I've found. The email you get isn't hidden off on their site; it's delivered directly to your mail box.
Another cool feature match.com has is a HTML based instant messenger feature that you can use to talk, one-on-one with possible matches. It seems to send your browser into small fits of CPU use, but it works and is cool.
As a "niche" server, pretty darn nice. They appear to have most of the bases covered for Catholics (actually understanding the whole annulment thing). Searches are not saved, pricing isn't too bad ($10/month or so). Not too many members (but what can you say for the middle of Oklahoma).
Yet another "niche" service. A bit more conservative, more rabbidly Catholic than some of the others I've found. Not very big yet (around 15K members). Fairly good layout, so far as a web ap goes.
Yahoo's Yahoo!Personals service has probably the largest number of users, due to Yahoo's standings in the general email/web search engine usage. It's a pretty good service, I've had a few respond through it. It's about $20/month, like all the rest. You can save one search using their engine, and although they run their own mail service, you cannot get the Personals email to be forwarded out to your normal Yahoo!mail mail box. They also allow you to use your Yahoo!InstantMessenger to chat with others, should they be online at the time.
Talk about cool interface. You can type yourself silly at this place. They have about an 8-10 page "describe yourself" section. You can save searches (name them and everything). Clean, bordering on elegant, interface (from the perspective of a web ap designer). Even found one (yes sir ree Bob, _1_) match over there. Nice looking offering.
This is one of the coolest sites I've found to date. Not only do they have the standard plethora of radio button/checkbox items for likes, dislikes, and haves, but they also offer a vast assortment of personality tests. You can find out much about yourself, as well as any potential date, if you are both on this service. I've not joined this one just yet, but as soon as my Yahoo!Personals service expires, I'm probably going to enroll. More on this one as I get used to it.