Match.com, Tinder, and OkCupid all hope to find your soulmate, no matter where you are. Whether you're looking for long-lasting romance or just a hookup, there's bound to be one service in this ménage à trois of a showdown that's right for you.
Online dating platforms make it easier for you to meet people in your area without having to dive into the bar scene. In fact, all three services let you do everything from your smartphone, so you can search for romance pretty much wherever you are. All you have to do is upload a few pictures, describe yourself and your interests, and each service will attempt to find matches for you. We've chosen to compare three of the most popular platforms in the online dating world:
- Match.com: Match.com aims to find your soulmate through it's matchmaking service, and is known for attracting an older crowd who are more serious about finding a real relationship. It's one of the most used dating web sites, and also one of the oldest since its beta went live back in 1995. It's owned by the media and internet company InterActiveCorp (IAC).
- Tinder: A location-based dating platform that's only available as a mobile app. Tinder doesn't try to match you with others using a fancy algorithm or compatibility questions, but instead helps you instantly find people in your area that are looking to chat or meet up. It has also earned a reputation as being a "hookup" app. It launched in 2012, and is also operated by IAC.
- OkCupid: One of the most popular free online dating and social networking platforms on the web. OkCupid is known for drawing a younger crowd, but it can be used for pursuing serious relationships in addition to more carefree meetups. It launched in 2004, and is also owned by IAC...
Each service attempts to find you a match based on your personal preferences, plus some sort of algorithm or quick-matching "swipe left for no, swipe right for yes" type system. It's pretty handy for anyone that has a busy schedule, or someone (like me) who works from home and rarely encounters other human beings. Furthermore, these services are great for people who like to test the water a little with someone before they dive into a first date, so you can separate the studs from the duds.
Match.com is available in 25 different countries, and in more than eight different languages. Tinder is pretty much available worldwide (as long as you have service or Wi-Fi), and can be used in 30 different languages. OkCupid is available in many languages and parts of the world as well, including Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
If you're located in Australia, all three services are pretty much available everywhere. If you're not in Australia, all three services are...well, still widely available. Of course, just because a service is available somewhere doesn't mean that a lot people use it. The more people in your area, the more likely you'll find fresh faces when you check your account.
Signing up is a little different for each one, but fortunately, very easy to do no matter which one you go with. To sign up for both OkCupid and Match.com, you'll need to provide your birth date, country of residence, post code, and an email. You'll also be asked right from the get-go if you're a man or woman, and whether you're seeking a man or woman for both. And, of course, you pick a username that suits you and ideally hides your identity a little. After all of that, things start to differ.
OkCupid moves right into you describing yourself in your bio section and answering a couple random questions so you can start getting matched with others. Then, once you've "liked" a few people's profiles to help identify your type, your profile is all set and ready to use. Of course, you'll want to upload some photos to your profile and fill out all of your other profile sections so people can learn things about you, but you're otherwise set free to find someone that interests you.
Instead of immediately letting you out into the wilderness like OkCupid, however, Match.com tries to get more information from you before it points you in the right direction. It will ask you what age range you're looking for, and how wide of a net you want to cast in terms of distance. Then you have to answer a multitude of questions that thoroughly describe yourself and what you're looking for in someone else. The questionnaire includes everything from your religious beliefs to the preferred hair colour of your matches. Once you've finally made it through the somewhat exhausting questionnaire, you're ready to explore. It's still a wilderness, but hey, at least they give you a compass. (OKCupid has all this too, but you can answer as many or as few questions as you want at your leisure.)
Tinder, on the other hand, doesn't do any of that. In order to sign up, you have to connect your Facebook account. If you're like me and hardly ever use Facebook, it's terribly annoying. If you do use Facebook, it can still be kind of frustrating because it uses whatever pictures you have set on your Facebook profile. If you want to add new pictures, you have to add them on Facebook. That may not seem like a big deal, but if you wanted to add a photo that was a little more alluring, you'd have to jump through hoops to add it to Facebook and keep it from popping up all over everyone's feeds. Of course, most people probably won't have this issue, but it's an annoying and seemingly arbitrary limitation. OkCupid and Match.com also allow to sign up for their services using Facebook if you prefer it that way, but they at least give you the option to go with just email.
The bottom line is Tinder is easy to sign up for, but being forced to use Facebook can be a hassle for some, especially if you're trying to be a little more discreet. OkCupid and Match.com use similar methods to get you signed up, but one is more appealing if you like to be set free, and the other is more appealing if you like to narrow things down before you jump in.
The price of each service is where things get a little hairy, especially for Match.com. While all three services can technically be used for free, Tinder and OkCupid's free versions are far more functional.
Match.com will let you sign up as a "Member" for free and view your daily matches, browse profiles, like profiles, send "winks" (which is essentially a Facebook poke), see who winked at you, and favourite someone's profile to find it easily later. You cannot, however, see who viewed, liked, or favorited your profile, and you can't send anyone any messages (unless they write to you first AND they paid for a subscription add-on that allows you to use your separate "Reply for Free" inbox). Of course, you still get teased with notifications and emails along the lines of "like alert - someone nearby is interested in you" and "so and so sent you a message." I imagine if you're pretty lonely, that teasing almost always leads to a subscription. You can disable notifications, sure, but the bottom line is you have to pay and become a "Subscriber" to really get anything out of Match.com. Here's how their subscription pricing breaks down currently:
- For a three-month subscription, it will cost you $37.42 per month.
- For a six-month subscription, it will cost you $29.10 per month.
- For a one-year subscription, it will cost you $23.55 per month.
But let's say you just want to try it for a month to see if you even like it. Hold onto your butts — a single month's subscription costs a whopping $55.44 (and it recurs if you don't remember to cancel it). At that price point, you're better off scraping up a few more dollars and buying Fallout 4. The menus and systems will be just as confusing, and you'll probably get a longer relationship out of it. That's not all, though. Match.com also offers subscription add-ons (as I mentioned earlier). Here's a screenshot of those:
Even if you went with the discounted $23.55 per month plan, adding all of the add-ons on top of that will end up being over $65 per month. The prices might help keep out some of the scammers and less serious folks, sure, but OkCupid lets you do a majority of that for $0 per month (with ads). Without paying a cent, you can create a profile, post pictures, answer questions for matching, view other profiles, like other profiles, and send messages to other users (arguably the most important component of any online dating platform). With Tinder, you can also create a profile, upload pictures from Facebook, swipe through other users, and message your matches for free.
Of course, OkCupid and Tinder have their own subscription plans too. With OkCupid, if you want to see who liked your profile, see who has or hasn't read your messages, and browse profiles without notifying them, you'll have to subscribe to A-list. Its prices break down as follows:
- For a one-month subscription, it will cost you $US9.95.
- For a three-month subscription, it will cost you $US7.95 per month.
- For a six-month subscription, it will cost you $US4.95 per month.
OkCupid also has a couple subscription add-ons as well. For "incognito mode," where your profile will only be visible to people you like or message, it's the same price breakdown as an A-list subscription. For a "boost subscription," where your profile will get seen by more people during peak hours daily, it's also the same price breakdown (you can also buy individual boosts for about $US2 each).
Tinder's subscription plan is called Tinder Plus. It allows you to send more "super likes" for people you're really interested in, you can rewind your last swipe just in case you changed your mind, turn off ads, and change your location within the app without having to physically change your location. Here is Tinder Plus' pricing structure:
- For a one-month subscription, it will cost you $22.81 per month.
- For a year's subscription, it will cost you $11.29 per month.
Not a terrible deal if you're a Tinder power user, but it doesn't add much functionality to the already bare platform. When it comes down to it, OkCupid is one of the most popular dating sites out there, and there's a good reason why. In terms of what it has to offer for free to users, it can't be beat. When it comes to subscriptions, it also seems to have more to offer for less. Tinder's subscription service is cheaper, but being able to rewind a swipe seems hardly worth the cash.
Using the Service
All three dating platforms are perfectly functional. You can browse other people's profiles, show them that you like them, and send them messages. Each one, however, has their own subtleties and rules that go along with them.
OkCupid's bread and butter are the questions it uses in its matchmaking algorithm. These aren't "what's your hair colour?" type questions, but more revealing "do you do any hard drugs?" or "do you like to make animal noises in bed?" type of questions. Some of them might seem a little silly, but a lot of them cut to the bone and can help you weed out incompatibilities you may not have even thought of going in. There are hundreds of questions you can answer, and the more you answer, the more accurate your matches will be.
Browsing your matches is effortless, and you can use filters to adjust your search. Some of the filters include minimum and maximum height, ethnic background, language, religion, the type of relationship they're looking for, and you can even browse based on people's vices (drinking and smoking). Messaging is also pretty straightforward and operates like texting or any other instant messenger.
Crafting your profile, however, can take some work. Uploading photos is easy enough, but there are eight separate sections you can fill with just text about yourself. There are no boxes you can check, no drop-down menus for selecting popular hobbies/keywords like "movies," and no way to know if you're writing too much or too little about yourself. It would be nice if OkCupid made the profile rubric a little more straightforward. It's hard enough to ask yourself what you're doing with your life, but to write that out in an interesting way for other people to read can be tough.
OkCupid's profile setup does do one thing that is super helpful, however, and probably my favourite concept in all of online dating. The last section in your profile is "You should message me if." That section, while used as a lame joke by some, can make things way more efficient for a lot of people. For example, you could write in that section "...you liked my profile and you're hoping I'll message you first. I won't." or as a negative like "...you're not just looking for a hookup and you want a real relationship." It helps you paint a clear picture of what you want and how someone might be able to make an impression with you in their messages.
Assuming you're using the fully functional paid version of Match.com, messaging and browsing works similarly to OkCupid, but with a few quirks of its own. You can search profiles based on your Mutual Match, which is determined by matching up your preferences with someone else's preferences. For example, someone with a 100% mutual match means you fit all of their wants and they fit all of yours. You can also search by Reverse Match, which is only based on what the other person is looking for. Anyone you see in your Reverse Match pool is looking for someone like you, but they may not be what you're looking for. Ideally, you want to shoot for a Mutual Match, but it's nice that they provide the Reverse Match as well. Lastly, you can search via Communities, which makes it easy to find other people who like the same sports teams, brands, and causes. In addition to those three search functions, each one has filters you can use to help narrow things down further.
Match.com also gives you "Daily Matches." Once every 24 hours, you'll have 10 or 11 profiles that Match.com specifically selects for you based on their preferences and yours. They're different every time and it's kind of fun to see who you'll get each day, so it's a great reason to check back regularly.
While Match.com does do some things right, there are a lot of weird quirks and user interface issues. For example, Match.com overcomplicates things by not only having "Viewed Me" and "Likes," but also "Winks" and "Favourites." Unless you go digging through forums or blogs, knowing how and when to use each one properly is a hilarious sitcom scene in the making:
"OK, they seem cool. Should I like them?"
"No, send them a wink first."
"OK, she winked back. Do I favourite her, like, so she knows she's one of my favourites?"
"No, you don't want to move too fast and scare her off. Now you can like her. If she likes you, then you can send her a message."
"OK she liked me too… Oh, and she favorited me!"
"Crap, no, that's bad. It's over. She's too clingy."
There just doesn't seem to be any reason to have that many ways to generate notifications on someone's phone.
Also, when you're looking at someone's profile, Match.com shows you outright what they are looking for in addition to how they line up with your preferences. This might only bother me, but I feel like it can shut down any interest you have in the person when you see that you don't line up with just one of their preferences. For example, say you find someone that is a highly-rated match for you. You begin to browse their profile and then you see that they're specifically looking for someone who is 188cm or taller with an athletic and toned build, but you're only 182cm with a slender build. You can immediately feel like it's not even worth winking at them, and it would be nice if things like that were a little more behind the scenes (or at least hideable). Lastly, Match.com's layout and site design are clunky to navigate, and is vaguely reminiscent of 2006 MySpace. Their mobile app, however, is much sleeker and super simple to use.
Despite how aggravating Tinder's sign up can be for non-Facebook users, it's incredibly fun and easy to use. Once you link your Facebook profile and select a few pictures, you're ready to swipe all day and night. If you see a picture that you like, you can tap the picture and learn (a little) more about them before you make your all-powerful swiping decision. Swiping to the left is a "no thanks" and swiping right is a "I hope they swipe me right too." You can also "super like" someone by tapping the star or swiping up. A super like essentially lets someone else see that you like them before they make the decision to swipe your picture left or right. Once you swipe someone right that has also swiped you right, you can then send each other messages.
The double opt-in messaging system is especially nice for girls that seem to get an endless stream of despicably gross messages. I've heard countless horror stories of men being creepy and abrasive to women in their online dating messages, so it's a welcome approach. Tinder may not be able to stop those messages from happening entirely, but at least you know you okayed whoever is chatting with you beforehand.
It's important to note that Tinder is very different than Match.com and OkCupid. You don't get nearly as much information about the people you're browsing through, and there's no fancy matchmaking algorithm that's actually trying to find your soulmate. All in all, it's a completely different kind of experience and you'll either love it or hate it. If you're just looking to see what's out there and have some fun, it's great, but it isn't ideal if you're trying to find a serious relationship. That being said, Tinder is super easy to use and it's disturbingly addicting. I'll often find myself swiping through just for fun when I'm bored, and catch myself thinking "ok, I need to stop… after one more swipe right." Then again, considering how little there is to it, there's no reason why it shouldn't be fun and easy.
It's All About What You're Looking For
After using all three services for a while, it's clear that each service has its own place in the online dating world. According to readers like you, Match.com is a more mature, serious relationship-focused dating platform. Match.com also seems to skew toward a somewhat older crowd (mostly late 20s to mid 40s), and those who are very interested in finding people who share their beliefs. The subscription cost for Match.com helps weed out those who aren't serious about making a real connection. You can dink around all you want in Tinder and OkCupid because it won't cost you anything, but when you're paying for Match.com, you're probably far more inclined to try and make a real connection.
Tinder on the other hand, seems to be the complete opposite. It's user base is mostly young people (mostly late teens to mid 20s) who are just looking to keep things casual and have a good time. While it obviously works differently than Match.com and OkCupid, you still can't get around the fact that everyone is judged at literal face value, and that might seem like a very shallow approach to online dating for some. Tinder recently updated to allow more information to be shown in your profile, but it's limited to your current job and previous education. Both things that are, again, kinda-sorta shallow ways to judge people as you swipe through the masses. For others, however, it can be a great place to find people and mingle, especially if you're just looking to have a little fun. Think of it as a virtual bar scene that you can peruse whenever and wherever you feel.
OkCupid is the happy medium of all three, and perhaps that's IAC's intention for it as a platform. Its users are mostly young, trendy types (early 20s to mid 30s), and you can use OkCupid to look for serious relationships or a hookup if that's your thing. You also get the most bang for your buck, and both the mobile app and web site are super easy to use. If you're looking to find your other half, OkCupid's question-based matching algorithm is widely regarded as one of the best. If you're just looking for something casual, you can find that too. OkCupid was also voted the most popular dating by Lifehacker readers.