At the same time, stigmas about online dating and dating apps have weakened since mainstream America was first introduced to the concept through the eyes of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as star-crossed lovers in You’ve Got Mail (which came out more than 15 years ago). Now, six in 10 U.S. adults view “online dating as a good way to meet new people.” These services have proved to be lucrative businesses too, with the online dating and dating app market bringing in more than $2 billion in revenue in 2013.
The rise in popularity means new apps keep popping up. They offer everything from the mainstream, game-like interface of Tinder to the niche community for farmers and ranchers found on FarmersOnly. With so many options, finding the right dating app can be just as difficult as finding your soulmate. That’s why we created this foolproof flow chart. Just answer the prompts to find which app is best for you. We’ve also included handy write-ups below, just in case you haven’t become dating app gurus (like us) who know the difference between Coffee Meets Bagel and Loveflutter.
Like the name suggests, the site is geared toward single Christians looking to meet mates who share the same religious background and beliefs. The service models both its interface (profiles with long open-ended essays) and paid subscription model off more general dating sites, like Match.com, making it easy to use but somewhat time consuming to create and maintain. The site’s tagline, “find God’s match for you,” has drawn controversy from some segments of the Christian community for seeming to imply divine power.
2. Coffee Meets Bagel
Good things comes to those who wait. At least that’s the premise of this niche dating app. Users are offered up one match everyday at noon (aka “a bagel”) who they likely share mutual friends with on Facebook. They have 24 hours to select or pass. If both parties choose each other, they are given an ice breaker question (like “Which bars do you have bookmarked on Yelp?” and “What’s your favorite late night snack?”) to get the ball rolling. The app is geared toward urban young professionals—NYU, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania are the most popular alma maters.
3. Farmers Only
As the site’s tagline says, “city folks just don’t get it.” The app is designed for single farmers (as its name would suggest), but also ranchers and really any eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in rural America. Users can upload photos, fill out short essay sections, and chat with others who live off the land.
What’s better than gaydar? Grindr. This location-centric app provides users with a grid of men seeking men who are available (and online). The realtime aspects of the app can quickly become addicting—users spend an average of 90 minutes a day on Grindr. The app was designed to facilitate hooking up, but users have the option of selecting that they’re looking for everything from “right now” to “networking” (really?).
First dates can be awkward, so why not bring along friends? (We promise we’re not talking about some sort of blind-date threesome.) Grouper is an app that pairs three single friends with another trio that shares some of the same interests. Grouper selects the bar and claims to pay for the first round. But considering you fork over $20 to go on the date, it’s not exactly on the house. Throughout the date, Grouper texts a series of dares, which function as a form of group bonding and can be anything from staging a fake breakup to taking a selfie with a stranger. And while the app doesn’t prompt you the pair off, isn't that more or less inevitable as the night wears on?
If you’re the type of person who likes vetting potential suitors before the first date, Hinge is the app for you. The app only serves up potential matches with whom you share mutual friends with on Facebook. There’s even an “ask” button, which allows users to send a quick message to mutual friends to ask if they think this mystery date would be a good match. And set up couldn’t be easier, as there’s no profile to fill out. Instead, users are asked questions about their Facebook friends, such as “Who would be your boss one day?” and “Who would adopt a stray puppy?” These answers lead to personality traits (like optimistic and comical) being added to your profile. Luckily, the traits are all positive—so you can keep those skeletons in the closet, for now.
Billed as the “offline dating site,” HowAboutWe was built on the premise that you can tell more about people by what they like to do than how they respond to personal essay questions. New users are prompted by the simple phrase “how about we” and asked to suggest a date idea. Users are emailed a daily list of potential matches based on shared interests (and date ideas). Asking a mate out on a first date is so much easier when you already know if they are more likely to go bungee jumping or boozing at the local bar.
If you’ve got a bubbe asking when you’re getting married, this is the perfect site to find your mate. The dating service is geared toward Jews, but allows users to select religious affiliation on a spectrum from culturally Jewish to Orthodox. Like Match.com, JDate has a strong paid subscriber base. This site plays on tongue-in-cheek humor with the slogan “get chosen” and a banner reading, “find someone who still loves sleepaway camp” on JDate TV, the dating site’s YouTube channel.
If Tinder and JDate had a love child, it’d be JSwipe. The service hit the app store in the middle of Passover this year, and like Tinder, simply requires you to swipe right if you’re interested and swipe left to pass. When you get a match, the screen illuminates with the words “Mazel tov!” and chair-lifting stick figures dancing the Horah. A few glasses of Manischewitz is all the liquid courage you need to start!
More often than not, we’re quick to judge a book by its cover—or in this case, a dating profile by its main photo. The founders of Loveflutter, who bill it as the app where quirky people meet, believe in the power of words. When you open up the app and look for potential matches, you’ll find their faces are blurred. Instead, your focus is drawn to an 140-character message. If you and an adorkable potential suitor woo each other with wit and poeticism, you’ll get a mutual match and finally get to see each other's faces. Oh, and did we mention that Loveflutter will send location-based first date recommendations? This really is Zooey Deschanel in dating app form.
This service has been kicking around for more than two decades—first as newspaper classifieds, then as a website, and eventually as an app. With 1.9 million paid subscribers, Match.com remains one of the few holdouts that still manages to succeed with a pay model. Users simply set up profiles with open-ended essay sections, and hope for the best.
If this app were in high school, it’d be captain of the mathletes. Users answer questions—the average person answers 350 of them—to determine their personal likings, characteristics, and what they’re looking for in a match. Then, a sophisticated algorithm (the site was founded by four math majors at Harvard, after all) tells users their percentage match with other users. It also has a Tinder-eqsue feature where users can rank potential mates and receive notifications if mutually given 4 or 5 stars (which in Tinder terms means swiping right).
When it comes to finding a dating app that’s not focused on hooking up, gay men appear to have the deck stacked against them. That’s why one former business developer at Match.com launched OneGoodLove, a LGBTQ dating site that aims to foster long-term relationships. The service focuses on the quality of connections over the quantity of matches.
14. Plenty of Fish
POF is one of the oldest (launched in 1999) and largest (70 million users worldwide) dating sites out there. Users answer questions as part of the service’s chemistry predictor, which measures things like self-confidence, self-control, and easygoingness. Then, a mathematical algorithm churns out potential suitors, giving you better odds at being a good match. Chances are you’ve seen product placements for POF in music videos like Britney Spears's “Hold it Against Me” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.”
Have a sultry voice that makes suitors shake in their boots? Then Revealr is the app for you. Users record a 20-second message, and members swipe through the audio recordings of potential matches in a Tinder-like fashion. If both parties match, they get to see one another's profile photo and start chatting. We have a feeling Barry White would have done well on an app like this.
What if we flipped the switch on centuries of courtship and said women should make the first move? That idea is the motivation behind Siren, a new app that turns the concept of the Sadie Hawkins dance into a reality. Users answer one question per day in an effort to show their authentic self—at least more authentic than you’d get from the typical "about me" section. Sample questions include: “What’s a hidden gem in Seattle?” and “What did you want to be when you were a child?” Women select who they want to start chatting with based on the answers of potential suitors.
This app is tailor-made to the limited attention spans of 20-somethings. Users are served up an endless buffet of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. Swipe right on a photo if you’re interested, and swipe left to pass. If both parties swipe right, a match is made, and only then can you start chatting. (Say goodbye to unrequited love.) The makers of Tinder have smartly turned this act of swiping into a game. When a match is made, users have the option to “send a message” or “keep playing.” Looks like we forgot to listen to the Backstreet Boys’ plea in the band’s infamous balled.