JDate: The Blackberry of Online Dating

JDate. Not really the iPhone of dating services...

The views in this piece represent the opinions of the author and do not reflect a GTJ institutional stance.

Like many of my friends in the Jewish community, I’ve looked to Jdate to help me meet my soulmate.  I’ve heard the stories, ranging from those of my college roommate (who is now married to a wonderful woman) to GTJ’s own Erika. But after checking out a couple of other dating sites, I’ve come to the realization that, even for those of us who restrict our dating to a Jewish-only pool, Jdate is extremely outdated and serves very little purpose.

Jdate is the Blackberry in a world that has moved onto Droids and iPhones.  Pretty much anything someone wants to express on Jdate can be done through another service, more efficiently and probably cheaper.

Jdate has a number of glaring weaknesses compared to other sites. This largely boils down to the fact that Jdate is the same site it was five years ago, while all the other sites have been evolving. If anything, Jdate has become less user friendly in the last five years!

  • There is virtually no easy way to search a user’s profile. It’s 2012 and the only way we can see users sorted is by how recently they logged on, who is new (which isn’t that many people), and who lives closest to you! If you want to find someone who shares your love of something specific, such as the TV shows or books they might list in their profile, you’d better hope you get lucky when you click on the picture. Seriously? This makes Jdate virtually nothing more than a picture book. I’m looking forward to Jdate’s future function that allows you to fax in updates to your profile.
  • Outside of the hard to navigate “Kibitz Corner,” there is no easy way to search a user’s position on a certain question. On OKCupid, there is a great feature that allows you to see questions you have answered and how they match up to other users you are viewing. Questions can be sorted by category, or by how much a user cares about a question. This gives users the ability to learn more about a person than just the opening couple of paragraphs.
  • It’s expensive: Jdate often runs between $30-40 per month, depending on the length of the package. Worse, once they have locked you into a package, they try to upsell you like a car salesperson. OKCupid, which has a sizable amount of Jewish members, is free and only requires $5-10 for a premium account with extra search functionality. Match is also generally cheaper than the J. And keep in mind that Jdate’s relatively high cost has stayed more or less the same despite reduced functionality over time. Jdate once allowed any member to get an IM, however now only paid users can get IMs unless a user pays for a bonus cost for the length of their package.
  • It doesn’t appear to do any sort of matching at all. There is no real way to estimate how much you have in common with one person compared to another, except in some very basic ways. It’s basically like they threw everyone in a hat and said good luck.

I tried to think of something that I can do on Jdate that can’t be accomplished on other dating sites — either through comments or just through the structure your general profile — and I drew a blank. The cost is lower on most other sites and the functionality is greater. It seems to me that Jdate, much like a politician who has been in office too long, has stopped evolving and is taking its members for granted, assuming that Jews will naturally gravitate toward a Jewish-focused site. Fortunately for the Jewish community,  if Jdate continues to stagnate, there are other plenty of other options.

8 replies
  1. Erika
    Erika says:

    GTJ’s Erika here. 🙂 While you make some very valid points, I would have to disagree with a lot of what you said. JDate does, in fact, have keyword searching, and research has shown that the matching algorithms don’t add value to the online dating process (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17017963). The main value in the dating sites is access to people, and that JDate does well. I agree that there are many things other sites, OKCupid in particular, do better, and I have an inherent bias since I met someone on JDate, but in this case, I’m okay with, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  2. Jon
    Jon says:

    I know it used to be there, but I really don’t see it as an option anymore. It used to be under the search function (I just emailed you a copy of the page). They allow me to filter out by their preselected topic (which aren’t that helpful), but the keyword search isn’t showing up.

    Regardless, if ts this hard to find, its obviously horribly designed

    • Jon
      Jon says:

      The idea that you need to restrict your online dating to a Jewish only dating site I think is outdated, even for those who only want to date other Jews. Jdate is nothing more than a brand that has created a nitch market by actually reducing the number of people on their site.
      OkCupid allows you to list not just your religion, but how serious you are about it. Other ways you can express how religion plays into your life is by stating your diet, and listing who should contact you.

      Finally, you can propose questions and for “two of us” section, you can set features as mandatory. So if keeping Shabbat, kosher or being Jewish was a requirement you can rule out matches based on those who answer the question.

  3. J
    J says:

    Thanks for writing this. Erika’s never even mentioning OKCupid in columns about online dating was ridiculous given its saturation in our area and age range.

  4. Jon
    Jon says:

    I found another stupid restriction on the site yesterday. They have a very limited space you can put in the title of an email. Like if it goes more than 4 words their system is going to blow up. While there are reasons to limit the the length on a email subject, it doesn’t need to be kept to a couple of words.

  5. Jess
    Jess says:

    I give Jon a lot of credit for taking on JDate, and I find his criticism constructive. Over the years, JDate has added some features — like enhanced messaging — but none terribly helpful to facilitating matches, certainly not as helpful as competitor sites like Ok Cupid or another fast-growing service, SuperTova.

    Because of first-mover advantage, JDate pretty much cornered the Jewish online dating market early, like in the late 90s, but got greedy. Their prices are unreasonable. They must figure (probably correctly) that, whatever they charge, mostly parents and grandparents, and not members themselves, pay the monthly fee. Whatever it takes to keep kids from intermarrying, right?, which is another critique left unmentioned here that I keep hearing elsewhere — that few JDate users these days are even Jewish.

    I guess this brings us back to Gather The Jews. Probably the best (and cheapest) way to meet your life partner is by fully exploiting groups like GTJ that assist in providing quality face-to-face programming with real Jewish content, community, and tons of singles.


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