While relationships have been an intrinsic part of Facebook since the early days — before there was Insta-official, there was Facebook official — the timing of the announcement seemed unusual. Why launch a dating feature now, while trying to get a handle on election interference, fake news, and regaining user trust? And, furthermore, does anyone want to date on Facebook when there are plenty of other, trusted (or, at least, known) apps that have long been devoted to the cause?
Facebook is banking on the answer to that second question being a firm yes.
“We’ve seen from almost the beginning that people have been using Facebook for dating, just in roundabout ways,” Nathan Sharp, a product manager for Facebook Dating told Refinery29. “Over 200 million people currently list themselves as single on Facebook and we think that a good percentage of those would be interested in dating.”
We’ll soon find out. Today, a test of the new service will launch in Colombia. (There is no timing yet for a release in the US, UK or elsewhere.) Ahead of the Facebook Dating's debut, here’s everything we know about it so far.
Where it's located
Facebook Dating will be accessible via the bookmarks tab within the main Facebook app. The service is not available as a standalone app (like Messenger is), and Sharp says there are no current plans to make it one.
Creating a new profile
Even though it's still within Facebook, Dating operates as a separate entity to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the sharing someone is already doing with their family and friends. In keeping with this thinking, you will create an entirely new profile for the service. The only information carried over from your main Facebook profile is your first name and age. It is also entirely opt-in — just because you’re on Facebook doesn’t mean you need to be on Facebook Dating.
Who You’ll See
You will never see people you are friends with on Facebook as potential matches in Facebook Dating. Instead, you will only see friends of friends and people you have no connection to you at all. If you so choose, you can opt out of seeing friends of friends as well.
Messaging, minus the matching part
Facebook Dating is not reinventing the online dating wheel: You’ll see “cards” for each person with their photo, name, and other facts, as well as answers to typical dating questions such as “what’s your perfect day?” (insert Miss Congeniality-related joke here) and “what’s your favourite book?” (This is similar to a format Hinge pioneered.)
However, there are a few distinct differences between the service and other dating apps out there. For starters, you will need to click on someone’s card and scroll past their photos and information before deciding to pass or show interest. Furthermore — and this is a big one — you don’t need to match with someone in order to send them a message expressing interest. “It seemed like an artificial barrier that we didn’t need to put in place,” Sharp says.
This could be disastrous (do you really want to receive messages from people you have no interest in whatsoever?), but Facebook is hoping that a couple of rules around messaging on Facebook Dating will keep them in line. The service prohibits users from sending any photos or links in messages — you’re limited to text and emoji. (Farewell, dick pics.)
Updating your location
If you’ve ever been on a dating app before, you know it can be especially annoying when you travel. Unless you’re in search of a vacation hook-up, you probably want to keep seeing potential matches in your home zip code, rather than the one where you’re currently located.
Facebook Dating offers a solution: It will not automatically update your location in the background, so you will continue seeing matches from your home zip code. You can manually update your location if you want to. (You need to confirm your location when creating a profile.)
There’s a practical privacy element at play here, too. “We do that so if you don’t want to disclose your location you don’t need to,” Sharp says.
One part of Facebook Dating that is more innovative is the chance to meet with people who have expressed interest in the same events you have, as well as people who are part of the same groups. In both scenarios, you will never see people you are already friends with. You will also need to “unlock” an event in order to see — and be seen by — others with dating profiles.
Ultimately, Facebook is billing its dating service as an answer to the hookup culture present elsewhere on the internet. "We want to make sure that this stays about relationships," Sharp says. "The way we define relationships is a connection between two people who are at least open to getting to know each other in the longer term. What it’s not is a one night stand where people are not hoping to get to know each other afterward."
Whether millennials and Gen Zers who are currently using other dating apps will be open to using Facebook for this type of service is another matter entirely.