At one time Backpage was the second-largest online classified ads service in the United States, but one section drove the lion’s share of the service’s business. And it was this section, the adult classifieds, that eventually brought about its downfall.
Backpage was started in 2004 by New Times Media as a free online classifieds website. While structurally different, it shared quite a bit in common with its better known and still existent competing service Craigslist.
Originally the two services offered similar adult classifieds, allowing consenting adults to seek out whatever their hearts desired. However, Backpage when a bit further than its more conservative competitor. Backpage allowed ads for prostitution, going so far as to set up services intended to protect sex workers from dangerous situations.
This didn’t sit well with authorities because prostitution is illegal in United States, save for a few counties in Nevada. There were also suspicions that the service was being used by human traffickers, and that the exploitation of minors may have been involved. The company maintained that it worked hard to track and block any accounts suspected of human trafficking, including both adults and minors, but this did little to satisfy critics.
The site’s legal troubles began in 2011, as multiple suits were brought against them attempting to shut down the adult section of the website. By this point, Backpage was the single largest marketplace for online prostitution in the country. Despite the fact that this was illegal, Backpage insisted, and for a time judges agreed, that because it couldn’t be held accountable for third party speech, it wasn’t liable.
Backpage’s legal troubles continued for years until January 2017, when the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) released a report accusing Backpage of willfully supporting child sex trafficking. Almost immediately after, Backpage took down its adult section. It never returned, and the company’s legal issues intensified.
The situation came to a head on April 6, 2018, when the U.S. Department of Justice seized the site. Six days later Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage pleaded guilty to a raft of state and federal charges, including conspiracy to facilitate prostitution and money laundering.
With Backpage Shut Down, What Can its Former Users Do?
People that used Backpage’s standard classifieds lost access to the site as a result of the legal actions. But there was also a large userbase of people that weren’t offering or soliciting prostitution but were instead using the service to find consenting sex with willing partners. These users lost access to a service that many found useful, or necessary. And of course, consenting prostitutes and their johns were out of luck, too.
With Backpage gone many of its users would have turned to Craigslist as a replacement, but its personals section had been shut down by the company in March of the same year due to Congress’s passage of the FOSTA-SESTA package.
The act allowed companies to be held criminally and civilly liable when third-parties used their services for unlawful purposes. Its intention was to help authorities fight illegal sex trafficking operations. Craigslist saw the potential for nearly unlimited liability, and so they preemptively shuttered their romance/personals listings.
So what can former Backpage users do now? As one would expect, there are other services available that have filled the void left by Backpage and Craigslist. This article will discuss each of these and how they stack up to the original.
Top Backpage Alternatives in 2021
Kasual is a dating app that takes anonymity to its absolute extreme. Users aren’t required to enter any personal information at all, so not only will other users never know who you are, neither will Kasual. The fallout from Ashley Madison’s data breach a few years ago made it clear to some that you’re only truly anonymous is no one knows who you are.
Beyond the promise of total secrecy, Kasual adds gamification to anonymous hookups. In each session, you’re presented with four cards. Half are local matches and half aren’t. The fun comes in when you start flipping cards, trying to locate a match. This creates a unique experience that’s unlike anything you’ve tried before.
Kasual will appeal to people looking for anonymous hookups and sex, but because there’s an element of randomness, it won’t readily replace the more illicit purposes the Backpage once served.
Adult Friend Finder is an excellent alternative to Craigslist. You can join for free to start looking through all of the available profiles in your area. The site is extremely well-designed with a strong userbase. That means whatever your specific interest, you’re sure to find other people interested in joining you.
Like Craigslist, the service is geographically-based, so you can find sex partners whether you’re at home or on the road. Once you’ve found a match, you can chat, exchange sexy photos or videos, and, if you’re feeling bold, get naked on a two-way webcam. You’ll “get to know” your partners fully before you ever even meet.
Creating a profile takes less than five minutes, and it can be as anonymous or detailed as you like. Include photos, or don’t. Talk about yourself, or don’t. You’re in control.
A free account is enough to get you started but to really take advantage of what Adult Friend Finder has to offer you need a paid account. Paid members can send and reply to private emails, add fully-nude photos, enjoy more detailed search parameters, send voice messages, and enter the service’s many chat rooms.
Adult Friend Finder is a premium service, and so you can expect to find quality users and no BS. Just real sex with real people.
Bedpage is very much a Backpage clone. Bedpage offers a very similar service to its shuttered inspiration. Users can avail themselves of standard classified ads, as well as a full range of legal sexual hookup options.
The offerings are broken out by state and city, but usage isn’t nearly as high as Backpage. Densely populated cities may find a decent number of listings, but smaller cities will find themselves contending with meager usage. But if they’re persistent, the service can be useful.
The other thing that users notice immediately about Bedpage is its unashamed promotion of “escorts”. There’s a whole section on the site where Bedpage sells itself as the best place to find escorts in whatever city you’re searching under. And there is no shortage of ads offering sexual services. Many use veiled language, while others include prices directly within their ads.
You may have to work a bit harder than you would have with Backpage, but Bedpage can deliver the same experience Backpage users came to expect.
That Ashley Madison? Yes, that one. The service that suffered a major data breach in 2015, leaking the personal details of thousands of people using the service to find extramarital affairs. It was a mess. But it’s in the past. The service has revamped its data collection practices and upped their security to avoid another incident. It’s now considered safe. And the fact that, as of August 2019, the service already had 32 million users again, a lot of people feel comfortable with the risk.
It’s clear that the service takes privacy and anonymity very seriously. You’re never required to lin your account to any of your public social media accounts. All that’s required is a private email address. In that way, the service is very similar to the way Craigslist personals worked.
Photos can be as revealing or as cloaked as you like. You can upload photos and use built-in blurring and masking tools to hide your identity. The service goes to great lengths to let you reveal only what you want throughout your experience.
The site prides itself on being a destination for all sorts of people — all ages and all walks of life. Single, married, “it’s complicated”, and “it’s crazy complicated” all find a home on Ashley Madison.
Seeking Arrangement, or Seeking.com, offers a very specific service, matching intelligent, well-traveled men of wealth and influence with sophisticated women who are interested in relationships on their terms, with a side of the good life.
You might assume that means they match rich guys with gold diggers, but the service is quick to put that notion to rest. Gold diggers, they say, aren’t welcome. The women on Seeking.com aren’t after cash. They’re after meaningful, fun, relationships with well-healed, worldly men that can provide an adventurous life that few get to experience.
It’s also not about domineering men that feel they can have their way with women because they “own” them. These are men of means looking for no-strings-attached relationships with beautiful women interested in enjoying them, and their money.
The service stresses repeatedly that Seeking.com relationships are mutually beneficial, fulfilling, relaxed, and groovy. Both parties are in control and both get what they’re looking for.
Of course, if you’re a man that doesn’t have stacks of cash, this service isn’t for you. If you’re a woman that’s interested in taking wealthy men for a ride so that you can secure a generous divorce settlement, they would prefer you stayed home.
This service enjoys a much larger userbase than Bedpage, but it’s structured in much the same way. Ultimately this is to be expected. Backpage, Craigslist, and ClassifiedAds are all classifieds services, and they all stick by the formula that works.
Users looking for random hookups are in luck. New ads are posted at a fairly high rate, and most appear to be sincere. It’s almost certain that some are scammers, but the legitimate posts seem to overwhelm them. The site shows you when an ad expires, which is a nice touch, helping to prevent you from missing an opportunity.
What you don’t find much of are overt bids for paid sex. They’re almost certainly there, but like Craigslist before, they’re cloaked. It would appear that ClassifiedAds is attempting to pursue more “legitimate” business, steering clear of the controversial ads that took Backpage down.
7. Adult Search
Adult Search takes the opposite approach compared to ClassifiedAds. Whereas the latter is pursuing standard classifieds and legal personals, Adult Search goes all-in on escorts, strip clubs, massage parlors, and sex shops.
Users can find paid ads for escorts and escort services, reviews of sexually-explicit businesses, and a large forum section dominated by free ads for all of the above.
Adult Search isn’t a classifieds service and it isn’t structured that way, although the content is divided up by states and regions. It feels more like a portal for sexual services with an open forum tacked on.
If you’re looking for anonymous hookups with consenting strangers, this isn’t the site for you, but if you’re looking for an escort (and almost certainly prostitutes) or you enjoy reading strip club reviews, you should check out the site.
Oodle Marketplace follows a fairly standard classifieds format, providing all of the expected categories separated by state and city. Ads include photos and a brief description. But you notice something strange when you click through for more details.
Oodles doesn’t host its own personals. It piggybacks on top of another service, Meetup4Fun. When you click an ad you’re taken to a listing on Meetup4fun.com. The interface is clean, and it gives you multiple methods for contacting people, including chat and video chat. What’s unclear is what extra value Oodles provides. You could simply skip directly to Meetup4Fun. So while Oodles.com certainly feels a lot like Backpage, it doesn’t really offer any personals content of its own.
Given the negative press that surrounded Backpage for the last few years of its existence, it’s easy to forget that it started out as a simple classified ads site, and continued to fulfill that role up until the end.
Gumtree is a UK site that provides quality classified ads. That’s it. No personals, and certainly no escort service ads. If you were one of the people in the United Kingdom that appreciated Backpage for its classifieds, Gumtree is a good replacement.
The site is laid out well and offers all of the categories you would expect, including job listings and real estate ads. The layout is clean, includes photos, and allows space for plenty of details.
10. Tryst Link
Tryst.link is all escorts, all the time. It’s not a classifieds service. It features only one product, but it does it very well. The site is well-designed and hosts a considerable number of escort advertisements. The ads themselves are dynamic, populated by revealing imagery, and include contact information and full price lists.
Most ads include quite a bit of personal information about each escort, including their stats, availability, a short bio, and details about the sorts of clients they cater to.
If you used Backpage for its more illicit offerings, then Tryst.link is more than a functional replacement. You just won’t be able to get a date and a used car from the same site.
Similar to Gumtree, Geebo is a strict classified ads site that services the United States. If you’re a U.S. resident that misses Backpage’s classifieds service, and Craigslist isn’t enough, give Geebo a try.
The posting volume is good on the site, so searches won’t return a bunch of old ads that are no longer relevant. You’re also sure to find any common category you would expect on a classifieds site — just no personals.
The ads themselves aren’t particularly well-designed. Instead of grouping information into discrete areas on the page for easy reading, Geebo’s ads are generally long, solid blocks of text. This makes finding important details difficult unless the person posting is very careful with how they enter their text. If this bothers you, stick with Craigslist.
As the name suggests, UKClassifieds is a classified ads service that caters to the UK market. Its design will feel familiar to Backpage or Craigslist users. All of the standard classified categories are there, including a robust personals section.
UK users can drill down to find hookups, dates, relationships, phone, and video sex, and escorts in as limited a geographical area as they like. The site is easy to navigate and allows users to contact posters from directly within the site.
Because the site features a section specifically for escorts, users looking for dating and hookup listings don’t have to waste time sorting through paid dates they aren’t interested in. Likewise, those looking for escorts can find them readily.
Overall the site works well and has an established userbase that posts frequently, ensuring that people should be able to find what they’re looking for without much hassle.
13. Free Ads Time
Like Geebo and Gumtree before it, you won’t find any personals on Free Ads Time, so if you’re looking for a relationship or anonymous sex, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Free Ads Time is a standard classifieds service. On the positive side, they feature more categories than we’ve seen on other sites. Unfortunately, the posting volume isn’t quite as high as others on this list. Even normally popular categories liked “Homes for Sale” in a thriving market only display a few ads. This limits the site’s utility.
They also feature a unique service that could be extremely useful — local business listings. On one screen you can find local businesses of every type imaginable. But try as you might, it’s almost impossible to find a single listing. Most categories are empty. We had to click around for quite a while before we finally found one. If Free Ads Time ever manages to fill these categories it could be a useful service.
Overall, there are better classified ad services on this list, but if you don’t find what you’re looking for elsewhere you can certainly try here.