Officially deciding that you’re going to try your hand at online dating is the easy part. It’s choosing which dating site is worth the monthly subscription fee that trips most people up.
Even folks who are novices in the online dating world probably have a general idea of the differences between popular dating apps and websites. You know that Tinder and the like are young, fast-paced, and the place for post-breakup horniness. You know that eharmony is big on its 32-dimension matchmaking questionnaire that pairs people who want to marry the next person they date. But what’s the difference between those super popular sites whose user bases are less defined? We figured you’d want the scoop on Match and Zoosk.
What’s the difference between Match and Zoosk?
Match is an online dating OG and it stays at the top for good reason. While it’s true that the Match crowd is relatively mature and probably looking for more than just a hookup, there’s not too much pressure to talk about making things official after the first date.You can just tell that people put their heart into their profiles here, and you shouldn’t have a problem finding people who want to open up — as long as you can admit where you need to shape up, too. The ever-evolving matchmaking is spearheaded by Helen Fisher, renowned anthropologist and Match’s chief science advisor.
The success of online dating site Zoosk is mysterious but nonetheless noteworthy. It’s somewhat of a mix between paid dating sites that talk about soulmates and an app that requires next to no information to start swiping. The main thing: There’s no compatibility test. Zoosk has a less defined crowd in terms of what kind of relationships are being sought after, but appeals to similar age groups as Match. It’s decent to have in your back pocket, but not worth paying for as your “main” dating site if you’re looking to get serious quickly.
There is one major thing sets Zoosk and Match apart — let’s get into what it is.
Where Zoosk wins
A site that makes a big to-do about its compatibility test can sound like too much commitment for some people, even ones who would be down to commit if they found the right person. The same people won’t automatically feel comfortable with Tinder and Hinge — especially if said singles are past their twenties. Signing up for Zoosk takes about a minute (literally less than the time it takes to answer ice breakers on Hinge), but is home to a more grown-up crowd of some 40 million people.
Instead of pairing couples based on mutual hobbies or relationship goals, Zoosk keeps things snappy. Opening questions cover your body type, height, religion, etc., as well as whether you have kids or not. (Same-sex matching is an option but, as of August 2020, there are no non-binary gender options.) After less than 10 questions, Zoosk immediately reveals singles for you to mingle with. (We’re not totally sure what these suggestions are based on. You only answer questions about yourself during the initial sign-up, and specifying what you’re looking for in a partner is optional.) There are multiple ways to view your feed, like “online now,” a Tinder-style carousel, or a search tab that shows full profiles including zodiac sign and a bio (if they cared to type one). The closest Zoosk seems to get to an algorithm is Smart Picks: a section where Zoosk keeps handpicked matches based on the information it gathered from your swipes.
The site’s virtual coin system is either endearing or reminiscent of a crappy iPhone game. If you’re feeling impatient, the “Boost” feature puts your profile front and center for all users in your area. But attracting more eyes doesn’t come free — each one costs 100 coins. The currency system also allows you to “buy” matches virtual gifts like roses and chocolate covered strawberries, though it’d probably be more impressive to just send them a digital gift card to a real dessert delivery place.
With such little focus on details past physique or distance, it’s natural to question how the site builds any real foundations. Surprisingly, something Zoosk is doing is working. The site keeps a meticulously-updated list of couples who met through the site with cute photos and anecdotes, plus news of new engagements and marriages as recently as June 2020.
Where Zoosk falls short
Take that aforementioned massive user base with grain of salt: Dead or fake profiles seem to make up a decent portion of the 40 million. Of the profiles that are legit, Zoosk seems to have a hard time listening to what you’re looking for in a partner. It’s not unusual to see people in your feed who don’t fit your specified age range or people who are 100 miles away even though your max is 30 miles.
It’s especially irksome that Zoosk ignores those baseline filters because there are no other ingredients involved in the process. There’s no prying into your past or asking why you’re single, no figuring out communication or intimacy styles, and no planning for the future with questions about a family or dream home. The first intimation of a questionable dating site is that profiles require no effort — considering that honesty and a well-thought-out profile (a hearty bio with lots of photos) is the main piece of advice from seasoned online daters. While Match might be able to touch on issues that you had in a past relationship that you don’t want to deal with again, Zoosk’s bare-bones sign-up doesn’t exactly weed out people who have a totally different view on relationships.
Profile verification is as important as you want it to be. If a phony person (or bot) wants to send spam or advertise for free sex if you follow a link, they can. Syncing a Twitter or Facebook account, confirming a phone number, or verifying photos are all ways for users to make their profiles more trustworthy, but you’re not prompted to do any of it.
Looks aren’t everything when it comes to falling in love or the reliability of a website, but no one wants to spend months on a site that feels like it was designed in a day. Zoosk made its debut in 2007 and looks like it hasn’t been updated since then, and profiles are so bland that you might just forget you signed up.
The rating on the App Store is promising until you read the reviews and find that positive ones are… hard to find. Success stories are sprinkled in with warnings to not let the app’s buggy performance or sketchy profiles discourage you, which is expected. What’s concerning is just how many scammy or dead profiles (like ones that don’t even have a photo) you’ll have to wade through, and countless reviewers assert that it just isn’t worth it.
What Zoosk costs in 2020
Monthly prices are in-line with most other dating platforms, but seem high considering the lack of substance. You can sign up for a 1-month membership at $29.95 per month, a 3-month membership at $19.98 per month, or a 6-month membership at $12.49 per month.
It’s pretty damn hard to beat Match’s user base. Its millions of active subscribers range in age from Gen Z, millennials, Gen Y, and baby boomers. We talked to Katie Blanchard, a PR account supervisor who works with Match, to get user base stats for 2020: 19% are between 18 and 29, 44% are between 30 and 44, and 37% are over 50. The split between men and women is nearly even, as well as the percentage who are single parents versus singles who don’t have kids. Match offers same-sex matching but does not have non-binary gender options as of August 2020.
Match has kind of become a happy medium for people who want something more than a hookup but who don’t want to meet the parents after two dates. There’s a sense of authenticity and seriousness without the pressure to get on the fast track to marriage.
The initial questionnaire takes above five minutes, skipping corny time wasters like “I want someone who makes me laugh.” Duh. Match is more interested in scaling personality traits that could drive a wedge between a couple. You’re not alone if you won’t date someone who’s rude to waiters. Match’s questions about how you treat other people — not just a romantic partner, but maybe a neighbor who needs help at 3 a.m. — are refreshing. Match really lets you hone in on what you want in a partner by letting you rank how important certain traits are to you. If religion is a huge part of your life, you can ask Match to only show you people who practice the same one and marked that it’s a big deal to them. If you don’t feel a certain type of way about your partner’s smoking or drinking habits, Match adjusts its parameters accordingly.
The algorithm’s unique mix of playfulness and rational thinking has worked wonders for a lot of people, and Match thinks it’s so spot-on that you’ll find someone in six months. If you don’t? They’ll cover your next six months.
Despite celebrating its 25th birthday in April 2020, Match’s continuous addition of new perks make it clear that the site is constantly trying to evolve and stay relevant. AskMatch, a free dating advice service that lets you pick the brain of a dating coach, makes constant appearances in reviews on the App Store. People were blown away by the insights they got from the one-on-one call, covering topics from messaging, to profile building, to reasons you may not be receiving responses.
Match recently launched Vibe Check, a social distancing era video call feature that aims to give new matches the closest thing possible to a first date. Even when in-person dates are back to normal, sending a Vibe Check is a smart way to ensure that the person on the other end is legit. Other safety precautions include emergency features from Noonlight, automated profile scans for red-flag language and fraudulent activity, manual reviews of suspicious profiles, and a check of all subscribers against the national list of registered sex offenders.
Where falls short
As evolved as it is, Match isn’t immune to antiquated business practices that attempt to reel in single people and their money. A 2019 lawsuit from the FTC alleged that Match was using fake love interest ads to get more free users to pay for a subscription by allowing known scam profiles to send messages to well-intentioned singles. Beware of notifications with phrases like “You caught his eye” that immediately send you to the payment page. Fake profiles are an issue that every dating site runs into, but we still don’t love Match’s occasional tendencies to turn the site into a creepy billboard.
The concept of winks, yes ratings, profile likes, photo likes, and other notification-spamming icons is both outdated and unnecessary — it’s why Facebook pokes aren’t a thing anymore. Knowing that you caught someone’s eye could be the boost of confidence you need to message someone first, but all of these ways to communicate are more confusing than helpful.
What Match costs in 2020
Considering its seniority, massive user base, and professionally-designed algorithm, Match could be much more expensive if it wanted to be. At $35.99 per month for a 1-month plan, $19.99 per month for a 3-month, $17.99 per month for a 6-month plan, or $15.99 per month for a 12-month plan, settling for Zoosk’s skimpy service would only save you a few dollars each month. Bonus: Match now lets users message their Top Picks for free.
Be prepared to play phone tag with customer service if you ever want to quit Match. Multiple reviews tell of troubles deleting their account after finding love, as well as monthly charges after their subscription was cancelled.
The Match approach and the Zoosk approach are drastically different. One swoops in like a dating coach to match you based on key aspects of lasting relationships — the other looks at age, distance, and sets you loose to flirt. Which one you’ll find worthwhile depends on how much you trust the algorithm.
You might like Match better if you’re tired of picking people totally wrong for you and are ready to meet someone who’s a better, well, match. Putting your love life in the hands of a computer algorithm can be exciting (albeit a little weird), and Match’s six-month guarantee proves that they really believe it can work. Even as a 25-year-old site, Match continues to thrive in the modern era of dating thanks to regular updates and a true desire to help users up their game.
You’ll have to get past Match’s onslaught of notifications for winks, likes, favorites, and spammy messages, as well as potential difficulties when it comes to canceling your subscription.
You might like Zoosk better if this is your first time signing up for a dating service and you want to peruse the dating pool rather than rely on matchmaking data — or if you like the pace of Tinder but not its user base. Zoosk is one of the rare paid dating sites that shows you all of your potential love interests without influence from an algorithm, which you may like if you don’t think those hypothetical questions really work, anyway.
You’ll have to get past the fact that Zoosk’s simplicity is a double-edged sword. The way Zoosk whisks you away to your feed without asking a single question about your preferred relationship dynamics is odd, and the mediocre matchmaking seems overpriced. Not only is the brisk approach impersonal, but the similarly lax security opens the door for shady profiles.
Sign up for Match.
Sign up for Zoosk.