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What Is Ashley Madison? What Is It And How Does It Work? 2023 Guide

What Is Ashley Madison? What Is It And How Does It Work? 2023 Guide (yes that one), also known as the Ashley Madison Agency, is a popular online adult dating website that caters primarily to married people (or people in a relationship) who are looking for some ‘extracurricular’ fun. In fact, it is marketed as a website for affairs featuring its trademark catchy slogan: “Life is short. Have an affair”.

Just a side note here: Ashley Madison gained some notoriety in 2015 when hackers stole their entire database of users and published them online.

So, given the theme of the site, that’s quite a scary proposition. But they claim to have addressed that issue and that your data is now very secure now. Definitely, a case of once bitten, twice shy.

Ashley Madison has been around since 2001 and claims to have more than 50M users, of which half are located in the US. They also claim to have a 1:1 ratio of women to men. Insofar as the “brand” itself is concerned, it is quite well-established and popular in the online dating scene.

In my opinion, you should never do anything behind your partner’s back without communicating it first. So in this article, I am going to assume from here on out that this is a topic you have communicated with your partner and it is a consensual thing you wish to explore. With that out of the way… let’s get into it.

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How Does Ashley Madison Work?

It’s a simple process, really. You sign up and start searching for prospective matches who are looking for the same things you are.

Women use the site’s services for free while men have to pay for every one of the site’s features. Probably unfair on the surface, but the argument is that this attracts women to the site making it more attractive for men to use.

The site just pulls you in with its design and its prominent “see your matches” button on the home screen. Clicking it takes you to a short setup menu that claims you will be done with this step in 30 seconds.

Your location plays a major role because this is a hookup site, after all, and people on there are looking for one-night stands. So, while profiles aren’t detailed (it is all about discretion, of course), it’s enough to link you up with someone else based on very superficial information.

That’s the whole point of Ashley Madison.

Easy, right? Click here to sign up for Ashely Madison if you think it’s something you might want to give a shot.

What Is Ashley Madison - Home Page

How Does Ashley Madison Sign Up Work?

The first impression of says it all: a sleek and sexy design featuring a close-up of what is clearly a married woman sets the theme right away.

The sign-up to Ashley Madison is minimal since you aren’t expected to say a lot about yourself. Just click on “See your matches” and the basic sign-up menu opens.

The first thing that you will need to enter is your relationship status (i.e. attached and seeking a partner, or single seeking a partner, etc.). Next, create a username and password, followed by location (country), zip code, date of birth, ethnicity, and finally your email for verification.

And that’s it. You’re now ready to browse the suggested matches selected for you in your area.

How Your Ashley Madison Profile Works

The key to your profile is your location. The site lists other members near you, which is the whole point and allows you to begin chatting with them instantly if you’ve purchased credits.

Also, like most other dating sites, you can be liked and messaged by other members who find you attractive. The catch is still that you need to have “credits” in order to reply.

So, either way, you can browse the selections for free but can’t do much else until you fork over some cash. Also, if you want to do your own browsing (and bypassing their recommendations), you will need to subscribe.

What Is Ashley Madison - Profile


You have the option of sticking with an avatar as your profile image, but….

An affair, like a regular date, relies on physical attraction. So, like any real dating site out there, you will always get the best results by uploading good photos of yourself.

The key difference here is that you are given the option of masking your face (or blurring your image) from the upload menu itself.

The point here is that you don’t want to be recognized by someone who stumbles on to the site or ends up there from an online search. So anonymity is a given in this case.


The preferences are set during your initial setup but can be changed at any time. For example, you can change your location in order to see (and be seen by) other users at that location.

This is particularly useful when you’re going on business trips, vacations, etc…

How Ashley Madison Matching Works

The matching system on Ashley Madison is, first and foremost, driven by location. When you first register and log on, you will be presented with a listing of what the website thinks your best matches are.

You can choose the ones you like by adding them as favorites (they will see that you have favorited them). However, if you decide that you want to do your own browsing you will have to subscribe.

Ladies can browse and message for free. So, if you’re lucky and someone finds you attractive, you can be approached. Still, the catch is you won’t be able to do anything until you subscribe to one of Ashley Madison’s plans. I wrote a full review on Ashley Madison, too, in case you’re wondering if the subscription is worth it.

What Is Ashley Madison - Matches

How Ashley Madison Messaging Works

You will realize very quickly that you have to subscribe to one of Ashley Madison’s packages so you can get credits to spend on messages. No matter who approaches who, you will always be the one that needs to use credits to send a message and ask the lady out.

When you sign up you will undoubtedly start receiving messages and it is the very temptation to respond that drives the subscriptions on Ashley Madison.

We’ll cover the quality of these messages later in the article, but you need to take the quantity and quality of these initial messages with a grain of salt.

How The Ashley Madison Algorithm Works

The basic function of Ashley Madison’s algorithm is that it connects you with potential matches based on your geographic location.

If you are in a big city you will find more match options than if you were in a rural area (in which case you’d need to set your location to the nearest city).

What Is Ashley Madison - New Members

How Ashley Madison’s Premium Membership Model Works

You will need any of the subscription packages so that you can search the site and message potential matches. Ashley Madison’s 3 levels of membership are Basic, Classic, and Elite.

This means you simply have more “credits” to use so you can send more messages.

What Does Ashley Madison Cost?

CreditsCostCost per Credit
100$59.00 USD$0.59 USD
500$169.00 USD$0.34 USD
1,000$289.00 USD$0.29 USD

Ashley Madison: Value For Money

Generally speaking, value for money on Ashley Madison can be considered slightly above average given that you buy “credits” under their 3 subscription plans.

Having said that, you should consider that this isn’t really “dating” in the sense of the word and that connecting with others also looking for affairs is a unique proposition. 

Ashley Madison Customer Care

No better or worse than others. While every online dating website has its own horror stories, it isn’t surprising that Ashley Madison also has a few.

The very nature of this website makes disputes of any sort unpleasant since you are trying to keep everything discreet in the first place.

How To Access/Download Ashley Madison

The apps are available for both iOS and Android devices. The general consensus is that the apps are TERRIBLE and full of bugs. Having said that, app development (and upgrades) is an ongoing process.

So, if you want to keep yourself connected away from your computer, then go ahead and download them. But don’t expect stellar performance from them or full functionality as you’d get from the website.

If you’re not opposed to using a dating app on your desktop, you can click here to sign up for Ashley Madison via their website.

What Is Ashley Madison - Website

Final Thoughts

Either you really hate Ashley Madison or you love it. The main complaints from the people who hate it are related to the messaging aspect (the need to perpetually top-up credits so you can send messages). The ones who love it, well… they just love it.

Although many would disagree strongly, Ashley Madison serves a purpose. There’s no denying that. It may not be a very noble one at that, but at the end of the day if you’re so inclined and going to do it anyway then you might as well try to do it in a more “controlled” way.

So, all judgments about Ashley Madison aside, their formula seems quite smart in principle (the idea of making everything on the site free for women while the men have to pay).

The point of that is to have as many women as possible on the site and this drives the model of an equal ratio of women to men (or at least a higher ratio of women compared to other sites).

The downside, as on any online dating site, is scammers. They come in every shape and form and they will try to take your money. So, you do need to exercise caution as you would anywhere else online. 

Another potential (although not 100% confirmed), is the prevalent use of bots (also “fembots”). Ashley Madison claims they no longer use fembots, but I guess no one can ever say for sure. Statistically speaking, once you sign up you are bombarded by “interested” matches. Of course, you will want to message them… and then guess what? Yep… you have to subscribe.

So, expect to part with your money right from the start. From that point on, you need to really pay close attention to what your new match says, how they say it, etc…, basically, try to weed out the real users from those who are trying to get you to either send them money (scammers) or just to keep you chatting and wasting away your credits (bots/fembots or fake profiles).

Bottom line: Ashley Madison has a good formula, they are well established with a huge database of members and they have apparently managed to overcome their data security breach issue and applied some stringent controls to protect your privacy.

So, if you still want to have that affair, then go ahead and sign up for an Ashely Madison account but be careful.

Hey, no one said it would be easy.

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