Quick FriendFinder Overview Last Reviewed: Dec 2002
Basic Membership Cost: FREE
Countries Served: All. Membership is huge, ~ 10 million.
Types of Relationships: Hetrosexual, Gay, Lesbian, Penpals and Activity partners.
Key Membership Features:

Post your profile and photo. (free)

Browse and Search - basic search (free) - extensive searching is offered with premium packages.

Cupid match email. (free)

Message Center. Short instant messages, free chat rooms and voice messages.

Premium Membership Benefits:

Silver Membership enables better searching options, support, ability to get ICQ #'s of matches, view more member photos and read full member profiles.

Gold Membership has all the above plus priority listings, support and super-search. Prices are given on the site (and in the full review below). You can also 'rent' a private chatroom.

Pros: Well established, carefully designed and with a huge amount of singles online so there's better chance of finding that special person. I also like that friendfinder offers free community chat rooms. The premium services are priced well for what they offer.
Cons:

the search results could be a little better organised and the private chat rooms seemed slightly expensive.

Rob's Rating:

8.5 / 10

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Joining Friendfinder online dating

The process is very simple - enter your basic details, the city you live in (or are closest too), and your password is sent to your email account.

Once logged in, you can carry out a variety of activities as a free member: creating your profile with photo, use the community chat rooms, you have ability to receive email but it's time restricted (1 reply every 24 hours) and only premium members can initiate contact. You can also upload and send voice greetings. The initial signup only takes 5 minutes. Later on you can fill in more profile information.

To get the best out of this online dating service, with more chance of meeting the right person, longer term you might consider upgrading to a silver or gold paid membership. This allows fuller searching capabilities, better support, the unrestricted ability to email singles, more priority and hence exposure for your listing.

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Logging in for the first time

When you first log in you are presented with the profile form which you should fill in. The form contains your introduction line 'hook line', a description about yourself (friendfinder suggests a few ideas here), and a description of what you are looking for in your ideal match. Furthermore, if you prove to be a popular attraction a free service enables auto-reply emails to be sent to those who contact you.

After you've completed the profile (it only takes 5 minutes) you are shown what the costs of the upgraded memberships are:

Silver - $19.94 - 1 month, $33.94 - 3 months and $99.94 for 12 months.
Gold - $29.94 - 1 month, $59.94 - 3 months and $139.94 for 12 months.

The gold membership differs in that you are given top priority in the listings, thus exposing your profile to many more potential matches than those who aren't gold members. Plus, super-search enables more refinement to your searching. Faster support by phone and email is included too.


The Friendfinder Site

The site is designed in a friendly manner, not too cluttered, with the key descriptions being short and to the point. Several key areas exist:

Your Account - the first thing I recommend is to visit your profile and update the additional sections. These are quite extensive questions including personal, dating status, entertainment you enjoy [books, cd's music, movies], personality traits, hobbies you have, sports you take part in, your goals, your working and living environment, your outlook on life and finally your physical apperance.

It's a comprehensive list and if you want the best match and want others to know more about you, and you about them, then it's well worth taking the 20 minutes to complete. The total time from sign-up to having the full profile complete (including photo upload - highly recommended) was in my case 30 minutes.

Cupid Email is another handy feature, whereby you fill in the type of person (age, location, interests, body type, education) that you are looking for and friendfinder will email you matches when singles closely matching those criteria become members. If you have the time, recording a voice greeting further enhances your profile.

Browse - in addition to standard categories, this is one online dating site that also caters for penpals and activity partners.

One great feature of the browsing section is that the main page you select your closest state from contains the amount of singles currently present, so you can gain an idea of just how many people are in the same boat as you, seeking that special someone. Similarly, for international countries, it shows how many members exist.

If you're a free member you can specify age range, but if you upgrade to silver status, you can use the Search facility to specify the interest and race. The Gold package takes this further by allowing search criteria like body type, religion, education and a few other handy topics.

Each results page has up to 30 listings, containing a photo, profile link, city and introduction line. I personally found the photos to be a tad too small, and maybe the results could be better organised so it's more pleasing on the eye as you browse through them. Also, by including for instance, the first 30 words of the singles profile description, I feel this would make it easier to narrow your choice of people you may want to communicate with.

Profiles are presented to the user in an attractive tabular manner, making it easy to get to know them quickly. Additional details are included below the main sections. You can then email them (if you're a silver/gold member), and even send a voice message (using friendfinders free pc voice recorder software) or continue browsing.

Chat - as a free member you can participate. There are various lounges you can join and talk to folk in, maybe forming a few friendships along the way.

Hotlist - add people to your hotlist so you can remember to contact them, or maybe for revisiting them later on.

Magazine - this is a section that contains a lot of articles on dating. Well worth browsing through as many of them are voted on.

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Verdict

Friendfinder online dating has been established for over 7 years with many millions of happy members. As a free singles member you are obviously restricted in searching and in not being able to send emails, but nevertheless I consider this one of the better introductory sites for those starting out with dating services.

Also, after browsing and getting an idea of the kind of people you may like to meet, upgrading lets you refine your searches and enhance your prospects of meeting that somebody special. The sliding scale price packages offer decent value for money (especially the 12-month option). Tip - Look out for special upgrade offers they occasionally run (one I saw recently included discounts and 3 months free!)

In terms of aesthetics and feel, navigation is a breeze and the site doesn't go over the top in use of graphics or any fancy flash. I was particularly impressed by the depth of profile singles can fill in, the summary listings (numbers beside each state), the chat and advice sections.

The minor downside I found was that the browsing and subsequent listings could in my opinion have been arranged in a better manner - unfortunately, it doesn't help that a lot of people don't submit a head-shot as the main picture.

Overall though, this is a top-notch site, and is undoubtedly one of the biggest online dating sites available. It's an ideal platform for singles who are just starting out with the internet dating scene.

Rob's Rating - 8.5/10 - Highly Recommended

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Review written by Rob Paul: Email me with any comments

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