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There are different types of dating sites. Some specialize in in areas of race, religion, body shape, introductions for marriage, relationships, casual sex and even sexual preferences or behaviours.

It's important to know what type of site you are looking at. A "friend for fun outings and social gatherings" can have a vastly different interpretation on an introduction site compared to a BDSM site!

Often a site might be created to cater for a wide section of the dating market but become well known in one specific market niche. It might become popular with gay people, cross dressers, older people or the younger rave scene. These sites will not advertise this specialization. You'll need to look at a few examples of people on that site to find out. Others will make it very clear they cater for a particular section of the community.

What are the different types of sites?

    Credit Dating Sites - These sites are free to sign up and browse. You can be contacted but to reply to any contacts or to contact anyone, you need to buy credits, which are used for replies to messages and online gifts. The advantage of these sites is you can leave at any time and not have anyone deducting regular payments from your bank account. The Ashley Madison dating site operates this way.
    Membership Sites - These sites charge a regular fee to join. This can be to purchase a block (usually weeks or months of membership all at once) but usually end up deducting regular payments from a nominated bank account. From our experience, their transactions are secure (or at least as as secure as the banks) and the four we sampled all stopped payments promptly when advised we were leaving.
    Sister Sites and Data Sharing - You might be surprised to receive messages from other dating sites you never joined. Many dating sites share their members data to increase the number of people they claim to have enrolled. They usually have a clause in their membership agreement to allow them to do this. This is done at two levels - complete data sharing will take place with sister sites and partial data sharing can take place where they supply only basic contact details to another site that will contact you with a special discounted sign up offer.

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Different sites for different people

    Introduction Sites - Although age might not be specified, if you check a few members on the site, you will usually find a focus of a particular age group or geographic area. Many will say they have thousands of members, especially in your area but are enlisting members through another site and data sharing. Do a search for people in your area and age range before you consider signing up.
    Culture Specific Sites - These usually specify what culture they target, on their home page; e.g. black, BBW, Christian, Jewish, Arabic etc. Some will only allow members of that culture to sign up, others accept members from other cultures to enlist. For example, let's say you are not black but would like a black partner, some will allow you to sign up while others, while not refusing you will give few results (because discrimination is illegal). This can be due to the site admin or the members themselves. To save disappointment it pays to ask the site admin first.
    Sites based on sexual preference - these include groups like swingers, BDSM, LGBT cross dressing etc. Some are exclusive and you will often gain entry via a screening site. For definition of these terms, see the "Terms and meanings" pages. Don't assume these people are all cheating on partners. Some are in open marriages, others may be seeking group sexual encounters.
    Hook up sites - These are aimed at meeting people for sexual encounters, rather than forming long term relationships. If you are looking for something long term, avoid these sites and save yourself a lot of heartache. They will often require you to have an STI medical check at sign up. Members will often request a recent STI examination prior to meeting. In countries where prostitution is illegal, these sites are often used to find new clients for prositutes.
    Social Media Sites - these tend to focus more on finding partners nearbye. Tindr and Grindr focus on locating the closest sexual partner. Grindr specializes in gay partners. Facebook has also moved into the dating scene, utilising the data from it's many networks of 'friends' to spin off a dating site network.

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How are dating sites policed?

    The success of any dating site depends on the number of members and the way the site is policed by the site's Administrators (admin). Many sites also have a forum for members. This is another handy policing measure because trolls, cheaters, liars and players will be exposed in the forums. If you are contemplating joining a dating site, check out their forum first.

How can I spot the best ones?

    Generally speaking you get what you pay for. People who find a match are quick to remove their profiles from pay sites, so you know every member on a pay site is actively looking for a partner. The best indication that a site is good, is the number of active members in the niche you are seeking. Don't take their word for it, look for yourself. Many sites will claim hundreds or thousands of members but fail to mention they are in the USA - not much help if you are in Australia.

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