Create Your Own Online Dating Site Using osDate – Part 1 – Introduction

romantic-walk-beachUpdate: I have disabled comments since I don’t use osDate anymore. If you have any questions, I recommend you post them on the new osDate forum so other developers can help you:

If you ever wanted to create your own online dating site, but weren’t sure which dating script to go with, I highly recommend osDate – a free open source dating system.

In this 7 part series, I’ll walk you through the pros and cons of osDate so you can decide whether you want to use it, how to install it, what to do after you’re logged in as admin, which files to edit to change the layout (it can be very confusing for people starting out), where to download themes to make your site look better, and which sites are currently using osDate. I tried to go into as much detail as possible to help you shorten the time it takes for you to learn osDate.

Ok, now to be clear, osDate is a dating script not a community script. What’s the difference? Community software like Boonex’s Dolphin comes with many features that you usually expect a community to have: blogs, photos, videos, groups, classifieds, events, polls, forums, chat, etc. Communities are focused on user-generated content and group interaction, whereas a dating website’s focus is more concentrated on one-on-one member interaction through email messages, winks/smiles, and instant messaging. It’s like comparing (dating site) to (community site). OsDate does allow your members to also upload photos and videos, create blogs, post events, create polls, add a forum and chatroom, and you could add functionality to turn it into a community, but in my opinion it’s best suited for creating dating websites. Now you can be as creative as you want, of course. But it’ll make your life easier if you treat it as a dating script.

Here are the main pros of using osDate:

  • Free, open-source – This means you have full control over the source code. You can do whatever you like with it. There are no fees associated with using it unlike other scripts that require you to pay $100+ upfront.
  • Extremely supportive forum – This is the single most important criteria when deciding which dating script to go with because when you’re starting out, you need all the help and support you can get. The people on the forum are really responsive and helpful. You should still do a search on the forum to see if your question has been asked, but if it hasn’t, you’ll usually get a response within a day or even less.
  • Free upgrades – When an update is released, you’ll find it in the Announcements section of the forum. New versions are thoroughly tested for months before release. If there are still bugs after the release, “patches” are posted so you can download and upload them to your site to fix them right away.
  • Free mods – Mods add functionality to your site, such as one that integrates Skype into a member’s profile or send new mail notifications to a member via SMS/text message. Some mods will cost you, but the majority of them have been generously shared by osDate forum members.
  • Cheap themes/skins – You can buy a variety of themes for only $5. They’re not the most professional looking, but what I suggest is buy one with a layout that you like (do you like the sidebar on the left or right?) and then modify the hell out of it to the point that’s it’s unrecognizable. It’s a good starting point, trust me.
  • Paypal payment module & membership access – You can set different membership levels (you can create new ones like Premium, Gold, Silver) that give members access to different features. You can specify how many pictures a member can upload, how many emails they can keep, how many emails they can send, how many videos they can upload, etc etc. If they want to upgrade, they can pay via Paypal themselves. All they have to do is logout and then login again to update their membership status.
Here are the main cons of using osDate:
  • No instant-messenger – By default, PHP121 messenger is installed, but it’s not recommended because of the issues with security vulnerabilities. I recommend you use v3 messenger. It starts out at $35, and it works great. If you decide to go this route, I can give you instructions on how to integrate it. It’s one of the best messengers for osDate because of its relatively easy integration with the osDate code. Update (Aug 14 2009): I no longer endorse v3 messenger. Numerous people have complained about their lack of email support. From one customer – “Would not recommend this site at all. I did finally hear back from them a couple of time to ensure I that I did get the download for the script but ONLY after I filed a complaint with paypal.” When I first wrote this post in 2008, there weren’t these issues. If you still want to go ahead with the purchase, you’re welcome to, but I don’t recommend it anymore.
  • Profiles for featured members, new members, online members show both genders instead of the opposite gender – Although this is the biggest con I have with osDate, it IS fixable. I don’t have the code for the newest version (2.1.4), but I do have it for (2.0.8). With that said, it’s annoying but most sites that have a large member base (few thousand members) have both showing, so it shouldn’t be a major setback to growing your member base.
  • Takes time to learn – There is a bit of a learning curve for osDate if you want to make it into a good site. It is usuable right out of the box, but there will be things you’ll want to change. Once you dive into the code, it’ll take some time to learn the Smarty template code. For example, if you want to display Google ads, you’ll need to wrap the Google Adsense code with {literal} and {/literal}. It’s something you won’t be aware of until you’ve read the forums. Fortunately, as mentioned in the pros section, forum members are happy to help. Back when I was a newbie, I received a tremendous amount of support. Now that I’m a 6 month mini-expert, I regularly give back to the forum just to answer questions.
I hope Part 1 has helped you get a better idea of whether you want to pursue osDate for your development needs. The next part is installing osDate. Create Your Own Online Dating Site Using osDate – Part 2 – Installation
osDate 7 Part Series:



  1. Brilliant and very informative. Thanks formaking this available Cynth.

  2. @normskie – You’re welcome. Having spent 6 months on it, it was a real learning experience. Lots of people helped me out when I started, and I’m happy to do the same. 🙂

  3. Hi,

    what’s the future of osDate? Is osDate a dead project?

    I can’t seem to find any information about who is continuing to develop it right now anywhere. It seems to have been a great piece of software and just what I am after, but I need reasonable grounds to believe that it will still work properly in at least the next few years to come before I dive into this…

    Any info much appreciated!



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