Facebook restricts potential matches to people located less than 100 kilometers away (there will be a different metric-system equivalent when the product rolls out in the US). Like other dating apps, you can also choose only to match with people who live nearby, have children, share the same religion, or fit into a specific age or height bracket.
“We’re trying to connect people that are open to getting to know each other in the future,” says Nathan Sharp, a product manager at Facebook. “It’s all about opting-in and making sure that people are really intentional.”
As part of that mentality, Facebook Dating doesn’t have a right-or-left swiping mechanism. To sort through potential matches, you’ll need to tap “Not Interested.” Facebook Dating users won’t be able to start a conversation by simply saying “Hey.” Just like the dating app Hinge, users will instead need to respond directly to one of a potential date’s nine photos or questions, like “Was that taken in Morocco? I’ve been there too!”
Facebook Dating messages will live in their own inbox separate from Facebook Messenger, and you won’t be able to send links, photos, or payments for security reasons. If you want to start swapping photos or news articles with a potential match, you’ll need to give them your phone number or switch to another messaging service.
But Facebook Dating will be able to hook into other features on the platform. For example, you can choose to match with people who attend the same events or who are a part of the same Facebook groups. To do so, you’ll need to “unlock” each event or group manually; by default users won’t be able to search for a missed connection unless the other person opts-in to being discovered.
All events and groups are fair game; users will have the ability to unlock that Taylor Swift concert from 2012 and the housewarming party they’re attending next week. One important note: group and event organizers have no control over whether members or attendees choose to date. For example, the organizer of an Alcoholics Anonymous group, or someone planning an event at a church, can’t turn the dating feature off. “The ethos there is that if people want to date, it shouldn’t be in the hands of another person,” says Sharp.
It’s these sorts of features that really stand to differentiate Facebook Dating from competitors. By utilizing the trove of data it already has about users, Facebook has the ability to become a powerful player in the online dating space. While many dating apps have relied on Facebook data for years—like to show you when a potential match has mutual friends—they’ve never been able to leverage everything. That dependence may also make them vulnerable as the social giant enters their territory, which is a weakness some companies appear to have been preparing for.
In May, for example, Tinder said it was testing a new feature called Places, which allows users to match with people who like to hang out at the same spots, like bars, restaurants, or clubs. The product relies on information from Foursquare, rather than Facebook. Other apps like Bumble and Hinge have also recently stopped requiring people have Facebook accounts to sign up.
Facebook doesn’t seem content to settle with just building a better Tinder. When the product was first announced in the spring, Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, stressed Dating is designed to foster meaningful relationships. But to do that, the company will need to truly innovate on the dating apps already in existence, which have been criticized for sparking less-than-worthwhile relationships or being more work than they’re worth.