Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge have a new competitor in the crowded dating app ring: Facebook. Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Facebook Dating — which he said will be for “building real, long-term relationships, not just hookups” — during his keynote at F8, the company’s big developer conference.
The launch of a dating feature is somewhat unexpected from Facebook. Although there have always been stories of people meeting on the social network — including one anecdotal couple from 2016 that, according to Zuckerberg, served as an instigator for today’s launch — the focus has always been on building friendships, rather than romantic relationships. You might reconnect with a friend you haven’t spoken to since elementary school or bond with someone in a group for writers, but there has never been a built-in way to connect with fellow singles.
The obvious concerns with a dating service provided by Facebook — ones that are heightened in a post Cambridge Analytica-era — are privacy and safety. Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, addressed these concerns, and emphasised that a dating profile on Facebook will be different than a regular profile.
When you set up a dating profile, only your first name is shown and the profile is not connected to your normal Facebook profile. It is not entirely clear how Facebook plans to populate potential matches, but your Facebook friends will not appear in your queue, and you won't appear in theirs, either. Nothing will be shared on News Feed, so you don’t need to worry about others finding out when you make a match, and, most importantly, messaging takes place in a separate inbox that is not connected to Messenger.
The process of checking out potential matches looks more similar to Hinge than Tinder or Bumble. When you tap someone’s main photo, you scroll down to see additional photos and information about interests, instead of swiping through. When you want to start a conversation, you need to choose something from that person’s profile to comment on.
The main feature differentiating Facebook Dating from its romantic counterparts is an events option, which lets you "unlock" nearby events and see profiles for others who have also expressed interest in attending. You can start chatting with someone you're interested in and, if all goes well, make plans to meet up in person.
In the hours since Zuckerberg first announced Facebook Dating, Match Group's stock has tumbled 11%. Although Facebook is dealing with plenty of security-related troubles, it's still a formidable market force. Though it will be curious to see who uses the company's new dating service: Gen Z or their parents.