Photo credit: Daniel Allan/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Zoosk — for young, mobile singles
Armed with Zoosk's mobile dating app, you — along with 50 million other registered users in 80 countries and 25 languages — can connect with local singles even when you're on the go. Zoosk is well-known for its integration with the Facebook community... and the site gets about 12 million unique visitors per month, so there are always new people to meet.
Zoosk, founded in 2007, is currently the top dating app on the Apple iOS App Store, an indication that it is particularly appealing to a young, hip mobile culture. The site targets members ages 25 to 35; in fact, 70 percent of Zoosk users are under 35.
Filling out the initial profile on Zoosk takes less than a minute. You can provide as much, or as little, information as you'd like (because everyone knows that the first thing everyone really wants to know about you is what you look like). After you sign up, you'll receive a daily "mutual match" featuring the profile of someone you just may find compatible.
- Fees: Search and view partial profiles for free; pay the subscription price (about $30/month) to enjoy full communication with other members.
- Start here: Zoosk.com
Match.com — a long-standing online dating tradition
In our informal poll of informal singles (never married, separated, divorced, widowed), more mentioned Match.com than any other online dating site. No wonder: With more than 96 million registered users, this pioneer of online dating is easily one of the biggest online meeting sites for singles.
Founded in 1993 by Gary Kremen, Match.com is headquartered in Nashville and now boasts offices in West Hollywood, San Francisco, New York City, Tokyo, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro. The site serves 25 countries in eight languages and holds more market share (24 percent) than any other dating site.
Today's Match.com members enjoy "Stream" mobile apps, as well as Match.com on Yahoo. In 2012, the site introduced "Stir," which promoted hundreds of singles events every month, ranging from small, intimate gatherings to large-scale parties. The site also features online games that enable users to get to know one another while having harmless fun.
- Fees: Match.com uses automatic subscription renewals that can be canceled online. Cost per month is about $35.
- Start here: Match.com
eHarmony — for long-term relationships and more
The main difference between eHarmony versus, say, Zoosk or Match is that it connects you only with people that are considered very good matches. Other dating sites promote the idea of getting out there and meeting as many people as possible, but eHarmony slows things down with a lengthy, highly scientific questionnaire that takes about one hour to complete.
Prospective members are enticed by the familiar, kind-looking gentleman on eHarmony's TV commercials. Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a clinical psychologist, marriage counselor and relationship expert, founded eHarmony in 2000 and continues to feature himself in the company's ads.
eHarmony also features a relationship research facility (eHarmony Labs) and relationship advice site (eHarmony Advice). Since its inception, the company has welcomed approximately 33 million members, and every day about 15,000 people complete the eHarmony questionnaire. The site claims that an average of 542 eHarmony members in the U.S. get married each day.
Based in Santa Monica, eHarmony serves members in more than 150 countries. Faced with increasing competition, Dr. Warren is expanding eHarmony to be more than just a matchmaking site. He promises to offer more overall "relationship services" that will touch on friendship, jobs, parenting, aging and interpersonal problems.
- Fees: Profiles are free, but most features — including messaging — require a paid subscription of $60/month. Based on the results of questionnaires, paying members are sometimes matched up with non-paying members.
- Start here: eHarmony.com
OurTime — for serious singles over age 50
Mature singles looking for a long-term relationship, marriage or just some companionship will appreciate this user-friendly online dating site. OurTime.com has more than one million users and is part of People Media's OurTime Community, which also includes SeniorPeopleMeet.com and SeniorsMeet.com.
OurTime is easy for even the least-savvy techies. You simply enter basic information such as gender, height, body type, looks and marital status, along with any other personal information you feel is pertinent to those interested parties looking at your profile.
Searching for the perfect match is a piece of cake. You can even narrow your search to include specific religions, zodiac signs or relationship expectations. When you find someone you think you might like, you can exchange messages, engage in live chats and send "flirts," — and you can have a look at who's looking at you, too.
- Fees: Membership is free, but a paid account (about $20/month) is required to use all of the site's features.
- Start here: OurTime.com
Christian Mingle – for Christian singles
Christian Mingle is a dating site that targets Christian singles in the U.S. and Canada, but you do not have to be a Christian to become a member. It's one of the internet's most popular Christian dating websites and boasts about 100,000 active members. Christian Mingle is owned by Sparks Networks, which also offers CatholicSingles.com and MingleMatch.com.
Your dating profile will include the basics — zip code, gender, height, ethnicity and hair color — along with your educational background, occupation and how frequently you attend church so that you can be matched up with other singles within a reasonable driving distance.
You can search for others using criteria such as body type, age and even drug use, in addition to any of the 20+ Christian denominations. You'll make initial connections with emails and instant messages.
- Fees: Basic membership, searches and customizable profiles are free, but communication with other members — and using the site's matching system — costs about $30/month.
- Start here: ChristianMingle.com
Loveaholics – flirting and dating with no strings attached
Not all singles are looking for long-term love or serious commitments. Loveaholics provides the perfect venue for fun-loving singles who just want to hang out (and hook up). This unique online dating site encourages members to keep it light... and even a little bit naughty.
Loveaholics invites singles to "experience something new, exchange naughty photos and browse thousands of steamy personals of local flirts." There's someone new to meet every day, whether you're connecting on a chatroom or a face-to-face date.
A variety of user-friendly interfaces makes it easy to make a fun, albeit temporary, connection with another "loveaholic," but don't forget to consult the site's tips for staying safe.
- Fees: You can join for free, but it costs about $6 per day to use all of the site's features.
- Start here: Loveaholics.com