Monday, September 17, 2007

Free dating services

There are also many free online dating sites. These sites do not require a membership fee or subscription to contact other singles. Unfortunately these dating sites are not reviewed as much as the better publicized dating services like Match.com, eHarmony and Yahoo! Personals. These free dating sites offer many of the same features found at the major sites. The main concern with free sites is that they have very few members compared to the millions at Match.com and Yahoo! Personals. But free online dating services such as Plenty of Fish.com, Book of Matches.com, Dating Hall.com and Connecting Singles.com are gaining in popularity by word of mouth.

About.com's Guide to Dating, Jeff Cohen, is the only major reviewer to evaluate these free online dating services. His top choice is Plenty of Fish, which launched in 2003 and has over 220,000 members. Plenty of Fish.com has many of the same features found at the major sites, but it also has some unique features as well. Plenty of Fish.com has a member forum and allows members to rate others on a scale ranging from "fish again' to "good catch." According to eDateReview.com, Plenty of Fish has grown by word of mouth only because there is no budget for marketing. And Hitwise states that the site receives more page views per day than the AOL's well-marketed Love.com.

MySpace.com has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years and now has an incredible 20 million members. While not a dating site per se, people can meet on MySpace, and many use it as a networking and dating portal. The site is free and anyone over the age of 14 can join. The site is very popular with teenagers because of the music downloads and games. Each user can have his or her own page on which to post a blog or place a profile. You can list your likes and dislikes, upload photos and ask your friends to join. It is a social networking group like Friendster but much larger. You can correspond with people via e-mail, online chat, instant messaging and discussion groups. You can also invite people to either private or public events that happen in the real world.

But MySpace is not without its detractors. The Attorney General of New York filed a lawsuit against MySpace alleging that the company secretly installed spyware on the computers of millions of users. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the parent company of MySpace agreed to pay $7.5 million dollars over three years and also agreed to remove the software in question. In its Terms of Use, MySpace informs members that by joining the site they grant MySpace the license to use, copy and distribute any content they place on the public areas of the site. MySpace will have non-exclusive rights to your original works and will not compensate you in any way. User reviews on Amazon.com are mixed. Some love it and think it is a great place to have fun and hang out, while others complain about the spam in their e-mail in boxes, and the unending advertising on the site. Another complaint is that if people post comments or pictures on your personal page using HTML coding, they can change the look of your pages and also make it difficult to remove offensive or unwanted material. MySpace does offer help files, but many think they need to be greatly improved.

Important Features: Online dating services

The following is what experts say you should look for when considering an online dating service.

Check the privacy policy. Make sure the site won't sell your name or e-mail address to other companies.

Survey the sites you're considering for people in your area. Most sites let you search for free, and you want to be sure the site has a larger membership of people who live near you.
Look for features to help whittle down the list of possible matches.

Take advantage of free trial offers.

Never use your real name as your user name, or your primary e-mail address in your profile.

Be suspicious until convinced otherwise. Statistics show that those using online personals often lie or misrepresent themselves.

Never meet any new potential date alone for the first time. At the very least, plan to meet in a well-populated area.

As with most Internet transactions, take steps to ensure you privacy and safety by using disposable e-mail addresses and not divulging personal information until you are confident in the recipient.

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