Facebook connects billions of people across the world. Now, it’s helping them hook up and (potentially) meet the love of their lives.
The social media giant begins rolling out its new dating service—Facebook Dating—Thursday in the United States after launching last year in 19 countries, including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Facebook announced the new dating service at its 2018 F8 developer conference and says the service will recommend potential matches based on Facebook activity to users who opt-in and choose to create a dating profile. The service relies on dating preferences, mutual friends, groups, and events attended on Facebook to pair potential matches. It’s also free to use.
With the launch of this feature, Facebook thrusts itself into the $3 billion dating industry with stiff competition from apps such as OkCupid, Tinder, and Bumble. Shares of Match Group (MTCH), which owns Tinder and OkCupid, fell as much as 6% on Thursday. The stock previously dropped more than 15% on the day Facebook announced the dating feature.
Facebook enters the fray with the unique advantage of being able to tap into its estimated 221 million U.S. users. A Pew Research study found that seven in ten U.S. adults use Facebook, meaning the potential user base at launch is gigantic. By comparison, Tinder has only 3.8 million users.
Another Pew Research study found that only about half of U.S. teens (51%) use the main Facebook app. This dating feature is available only to users 18 years and older, so it likely won’t help boost Facebook’s declining popularity among teens.
For now, the service is only available on mobile and doesn’t require any extra downloads. It’s built directly into the main Facebook app. You can find it by navigating to the top-right menu in the same place as the marketplace and groups.
According to Facebook, the service operates independently from main Facebook profiles, and it is not scraped for information that can be used to target ads. Of course, that could change in the future.
Users who create a dating profile can select the information on their Facebook profile that they’d like to feature, including whether they share with their dating prospects mutual friends on the platform. They won’t see anyone they’re already friends with on Facebook or anyone they’ve blocked.
Profiles are initially auto-populated using first names only. Users then have the option to add location, gender, height, religion, job title, company, schools, and whether or not they have children, as well as other information that is fairly common among other dating apps. For example, users can pick whom they’re interested in dating from a selection that includes everyone, all women, trans women, all men, and trans men. Users can choose to display their own gender identity as a cis woman, trans woman, cis man, trans man, or nonbinary.
Up to nine photos can be used in a profile as well as an ice-breaker question such as, “What three emoji best describe you?” Once completed, Facebook’s dating algorithm selects and displays potential matches.
From this point on, Facebook Dating looks nearly identical to other dating services. You can choose to match with people who live nearby, share the same religion or fit certain physical attributes. Notably, searches for specific ethnicities are not an option.
Rather than swiping left or right, users click a heart button to indicate interest or an “X” to pass. The option to like specific content on a person’s profile, such as a photo or the answer to one of the ice-breaker questions, is available. This is similar to the way that the Hinge dating app works.
Most of the core attributes of Facebook Dating have been heavily influenced by other apps on the market. If you use an app like Tinder, Hinge, or Bumble, you will likely find yourself very familiar with the controls and the way pairing works (i.e., when two people like each other, they are paired and can begin chatting).
There are very few unique aspects to Facebook Dating, with the most obvious being the “Secret Crush” feature. If you scroll past the events and groups section of the app – where you can pair with people from events and groups you’ve joined on Facebook – you will find an area where you can add secret crushes to your interests.
In the Secret Crush section, users can add up to nine friends from Facebook or Instagram followers that they secretly admire, and they’ll receive a notification. Once you add them to your Secret Crush list, they’ll receive a notification. Users who have each other on their list will also receive a notification and be paired. Once matched, they can begin messaging.
Facebook says your secret crush will never know it was you who added them to the list unless you match with them. Facebook also says the goal is that people will try to form relationships with people they know but are too scared to approach.
It’s an interesting idea, and one that is entirely unique to Facebook. There is no other service in the U.S. large enough to enable this type of feature. Whether it pans out remains to be seen, but it’s interesting to see Facebook already leveraging its massive user base to give Facebook Dating a slight edge on other apps.
Finally, the last unique feature Facebook Dating has that’s worth mentioning surrounds safety and support. The service has a new “Share Your Plans” feature that makes it easier for people to share their locations if they decide to meet up with someone for a date.
After you’re done messaging with one of your matches, you can choose to share your plans with family and friends to let them know where you’re meeting your date.
This feature essentially shares your location during a select period with friends or family that you choose. This makes it easier for loved ones to keep tabs on you if you decide to meet with a stranger.
Facebook Dating is available today to all U.S. who are 18 years or older and have downloaded the most recent version of Facebook.
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