Europeans can now add romance to the list of things they can find on Facebook FB, after the world’s largest social media company beefed up its dating service.
Over a year ago, Facebook Dating was launched in the U.S., and is now being expanded to Europe, where it will compete with the likes of Tinder, Bumble, Badoo, and Hinge. It is also available in 20 other countries, primarily in the Americas and Southeast Asia.
Facebook Dating enters a crowded and consolidated sector dominated by just a few companies that control most of the popular online dating apps and sites.
The largest player is Match Group
which operates Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, PlentyOfFish, Match.com, and others. When Facebook announced that it was expanding its dating service to the U.S. last September, shares in Match Group fell more than 4%. Another major competitor is Bumble and Badoo owner Magic Lab.
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The dating service from the social media giant is a dedicated, opt-in space within Facebook, but allows users to share stories from their main accounts and Instagram. Another crossover with the main social media offering is the ability to add users’ Facebook groups and events to their dating profile.
But there is still some distance from the core functions of the social media platform. “We won’t suggest current Facebook friends as potential matches or notify them that you’ve joined Dating,” Facebook said. “For example, your Dating profile, Dating messages, and who you like or match with in Dating won’t appear on your Facebook News Feed.”
Facebook claims that 1.5 billion matches have been made so far in the 20 countries where the service has been available. It was first expected to launch in Europe before Valentine’s Day 2020, but was delayed after scrutiny from European Union regulators.
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Despite being able to access a base of billions of users and leverage its access to a wealth of user data, analysts believe that Facebook’s success in the dating sector isn’t a foregone conclusion.
“When this was announced, the most obvious and clear take was that Facebook was going to be a very significant and impactful competitor in the category,” said Scott Kessler, an analyst at Third Bridge, an investment research consultancy. “Since then, people have taken a step back and realized that perhaps there won’t be a winner-take-all situation.”
Kessler said that the chief issue that Facebook Dating will face is actually getting users to think of the social media site, and its well-known brand, as a place to meet partners.
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“It does seem like people perhaps don’t see Facebook as a place to go for online dating,” Kessler said, even though the service has “novel features and functionality.”
Kessler also highlighted the social media company’s history with user data, and the lingering cloud of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal (when the London-based political consulting firm acquired and used the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users without their permission), as a potential barrier for success.
“I do think there is a level of skepticism or concern regarding how the company and the property accesses and utilizes people’s personal information and data,” Kessler said. “It makes launching this particular property and gaining traction perhaps more challenging than people might have expected.”