Life is short. Have an affair. So says Ashley Madison, a judgment-free dating site that offers an open-minded dating community for those looking for an extramarital affair.
Ashley Madison was founded in 2001 by Darren Morgenstern as a website where people in attached relationships could seek sexual encounters with others without the fear of judgment. Based in Canada, the site is now available in 53 countries and has been featured in Daily Mail, Gizmodo, Mashable, and other online publications.
|Total Members||~40 million|
|Members From U.S.||~24 million|
|Monthly Visitors||~4 million|
|New Monthly Members||~2.8 million|
It’s hard to get exact numbers on Ashley Madison membership, but the consensus seems to be that there are around 40 million accounts in total. There are about 80% males and 20% females, and members span 53 countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, and the U.K. it is estimated that there are about 24 million members in the U.S. alone. Every month, about 4 million visitors log into the site, and there are around 2.8 million new sign-ups each month. Users spend an average of fewer than 5 minutes on the site and visit about 8 profile pages per visit.
Members come from all walks of life. They are students, stay-at-home parents, business people, and retirees. Some of them are single, but most of them are in committed relationships. In some cases, a member’s partner is aware of their participation on the Ashley Madison site, and they see it as a way to supplement their partner’s sexual needs. However, most of the time members are using the website discreetly.
There are way more men than women on the site, and the majority of the men are middle-aged. It’s estimated that a large number of the female accounts are fake, but again, it’s difficult to come across hard data on this. If you go on Ashley Madison, you will find users who are monogamous but seeking the thrill of an affair. Others are polyamorous, and some individuals are in an open relationship.
Creating a Profile
Registration is free on Ashley Madison and requires basic information such as age and gender. Members must specify their relationship status and what they’re looking for (man seeking women, woman seeking men, woman seeking women). Females use the site for free as long as they’re looking for men.
Ashley Madison has a quick registration process compared to other dating sites, probably because less information is required. After all, the purpose is to have an affair rather than a committed relationship. As such, there’s not a lot of details to fill out, and many members don’t even complete their profile. The sign-up page asks you to enter your height, weight, body type, ethnicity, and zip code. You can also enter your “limits,” such as a short-term or long-term relationship, erotic chat, or anything goes. At the end, you are asked to type in a personalized greeting for visitors to see.
Your profile page will reflect some of your personal information. The site doesn’t ask for your name, but rather a distinct username. There are additional preferences that you can specify, including turn-ons, turn-offs, and things that excite you. Upon uploading a profile picture, you can blur some parts out or cover up your face. This is a security measure taken by Ashley Madison to protect its members. Your account information page allows you to change your username, password, email address, and profile page details.
Using the Site
The Ashley Madison website is pretty similar to dating websites like eHarmony. Upon logging in, you see your dashboard along with menu options for viewing other profiles. You can see member profiles and photos for free and even create a favorites list of up to 100 accounts.
Unlike traditional dating sites, Ashley Madison doesn’t have automatic matching features. Instead, you search for others near you using the filtering options on the site. You can initiate contact by sending a message or virtual “gift” to another user, such as a bouquet of flowers or a teddy bear. If you’re a woman looking for a man, you can use the site for free, but otherwise, you will need to purchase credits to start a conversation or reply to messages. Free features include adding someone to your favorites list, searching for other members, and sending and receiving photos. Oddly enough, it looks like it costs $19 to delete a profile. Deactivating an account is free and removes your profile from search results with the option to restore it.
The user interface is simple enough, but not in-depth like it is on traditional sites. Also, the lack of a monthly or annual payment plan can make things a bit confusing. If you’re a man and you want to make any progress on the site, you will have to purchase credits eventually. For example, if you’re a man and a woman messages you, it costs 5 credits to answer her.
The MessagePlus feature is free for 30 days but only after buying credits. Another paid feature is Traveling Man/Woman, in which members who are on business trips can search for other users in their current location. Priority Man is a paid feature that boosts your profile, so it stands out among others and gets noticed by more women.
There is also an affiliate program that invites members to promote Ashley Madison. They get people to sign-up and then earn a profit when they do.
Finding a Match
Whereas traditional dating sites send you matches, you have to be proactive on Ashley Madison. Start by using the search filters to specify what kind of person you’re looking for. Once you find someone you’re interested in, you can send them an email, chat message, wink, or virtual gift to get their attention. Giving them your private showcase key allows them to see all of your uncensored photos. A one-on-one chat room called ChatMates is available for 2 credits and is free for women.
You’ll notice that the profiles aren’t as in-depth as what you might find on a site like eHarmony, but that’s to be expected from an affairs site. When you visit a profile, you will see the individual’s username, age, city, height, weight, and ethnicity. You’ll also see their status (woman seeking men, woman seeking woman, etc.) and their “limits.” Under their profile picture are options to send them a wink, add their profile to your favorites list, or give them your private showcase key.
The bottom half of their profile will reveal what kinds of encounters they’re looking for, what excites them, as well as member feedback from other users. This includes things like “gives good chats,” “better in person,” “worth the time,” and more.
Ashley Madison is available on desktop as well as a free iOS and Android app. According to the Google Play Store, the app has over 1 million downloads. It’s a relatively small download, and the app icon is unassuming to help it blend in with the other apps a spouse is using, just in case their partner glances at their phone screen.
The app has similar features as the desktop version, along with a decent user interface. There is a unique function that allows users to swipe and view profiles, and it’s only available on the app version. Despite this capability, users aren’t too thrilled with the app, as it has an average user rating of just 2.3 out of 5 stars, based on the opinions of over 6,400 people on the Google Play Store. The primary complaint is that most functionality on the app (and site) costs real money.
Ashley Madison had a major security breach in 2015 in which hackers broke into the database and accessed personal details from some 30 million accounts. This included user interactions and messages, photos, email addresses, and credit card information. The data breach was highly publicized, and the hackers leaked the stolen information to the public, ruining countless relationships and even exposing several Ashley Madison CEOs. The hackers were trying to get Ashley Madison to shut down their site but obviously, that didn’t happen.
Today, the site assures members that the site is safe to use. They don’t link user accounts to any social media profiles, and they encourage members to create a separate email address specifically for Ashley Madison. As for payment, users aren’t billed by Ashley Madison, but a third-party entity. Payments can be made by debit or credit card as well as PayPal. A code of conduct is posted on the site, and users can block and report anyone who makes them uncomfortable. They can also temporarily disable their account or permanently delete it, although that costs $19. The site doesn’t run any criminal background checks on its members.
It’s worth noting that after the 2015 data breach, it was revealed that there were 70,000 bots posing as fake female users on the Ashley Madison website. These bots were sending messages to male users. Also, several employees have come forward throughout the years to denounce Ashley Madison’s executive leadership team, stating that they were asked to create bogus accounts for the site to attract paying customers. A 2016 report by Ernst & Young showed that Ashley Madison phased out the bot accounts. In 2017, Ashley Madison received the Privacy by Design certification, which is offered by the Privacy by Design Centre at Ryerson University and recognizes businesses that utilize specific infrastructure technologies to protect user information.
At the end of the day, this is an adultery site, which calls into question just how many real accounts the site has and whether it’s secure.
While sites like eHarmony use real currency and offer paid subscriptions, Ashley Madison relies on a credits-based system. This means that some members (typically men, but also women who want to meet other women), have to pay real money for credits. These credits allow them to initiate conversations or engage in real-time chat for a certain amount of time.
Some features require more credits than others. For instance, it costs 5 credits to send priority emails and messages, while it costs 30 credits to use the chat for 30 minutes. Virtual gifts can cost anywhere from 20 to 50 credits.
The table below shows the credits plans on Ashley Madison. Be aware that these aren’t monthly subscriptions, but credits packages. The basic package costs $49 and gives you 100 credits. Classic gives you 500 credits, and Elite gives you 1,000 credits.
Another thing you’ll notice is that the price per credit decreases in the more expensive packages. You’ll only pay 25 cents per credit on the Elite plan, but 49 cents per credit on the Basic plan. This helps customers feel like they’re getting a better deal.
|Elite (1,000 credits)||$249 (25¢ per credit)||Initiate conversation, reply to messages, send priority emails, engage in live chat|
|Classic (500 credits)||$149(30¢ per credit)||Initiate conversation, reply to messages, send priority emails, engage in live chat|
|Basic (100 credits)||$49 (49¢ per credit)||Initiate conversation, reply to messages, send priority emails, engage in live chat|
What is Member Initiated Contact?
Member Initiated Contact refers to messages that are sent to a paying member and are typically sent by females using the site for free. These messages include adding you to a favorites list, giving you winks or a private showcase key, or sending you an unsolicited message. If you’re a guy and you have purchased credits, you can access these messages for free.
Are there any free features on the site?
If you’re a woman, you can use the site for free. Otherwise, the only free feature available is looking at other profiles. Any conversation or interaction with another member will require credits.
How do I delete my profile?
After logging into the site, go to the member dashboard and click on “Manage Profile,” followed by “Delete Profile.” Click “Complete Profile Removal” and follow the prompts. You can also call customer support to delete your profile by phone.