Facebook wants you to make friends. And now it wants you to find our soul mate.
The social network began testing its dating features in Colombia this week. It’s available within the app only and, like Tinder, will only import your first name and age, and will input your location, and answers to various questions to try to match people.
A Facebook spokeswoman told MarketWatch the new feature will allow users to set up a dating profile separate from their normal Facebook account, and activity on dating profiles won’t be shared on the News Feed. Like Tinder
this dating service will only show users’ first names. (That’s useful, given that so many people tell fibs on dating sites.)
Users will not be matched with friends on Facebook, but other users who have marked themselves as ‘single’ on the social media network.
Users will not be matched with friends on Facebook, but rather others who have marked themselves as “single” on the social media network.
Facebook’s chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg officially announced the service earlier this year during Facebook’s
annual conference. “This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not just hook-ups,” he said.
The company is entering a crowded space: The dating industry is worth around $3 billion, with revenue split between advertising and subscription services, up revenue up around 5% per year, according to a report by research firm IBISWorld.
Of that, around half is from online dating. But Facebook Dating has one big advantage: More than 2 billion members around the world. As dating pools go, they don’t get much bigger than that. The Verge reported Thursday that the service will be free and will have a tap feature rather than a right/left swipe to choose potential dates.
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But who will actually use the feature? Meredith Golden, a dating coach based in New York City, said she believes the new feature will be used largely by divorcees and users over 40 who may be less likely to use other online services.
Even though a Facebook dating service could act in the same way as other location-based dating apps, people know it mostly as a familiar and unthreatening place to talk to friends, she said. It’s an almost seamless transition to dating.
Online dating is growing in popularity for people in their 50s and older, according to the Pew Research Center.
“There are millions of singles in this demographic who want to meet someone but have reservations about using dating apps,” she said. “If they’ve already been using Facebook and feel comfortable with the format, this will be an easy transition for someone reentering the dating market.”
This is an increasingly lucrative market. Online dating is growing in popularity for people in their 50s and older, according to the Pew Research Center. The number of 55 to 65-year-olds dating online has doubled from 6% in 2013 to 12% in 2017, it found.
Still, online dating is still much more common in younger generations, with the share of 18 to -24-year-olds using online dating services nearly tripling from 10% to 27% in that time. Location-based apps have exploded in popularity over the last 10 years.
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Many dating apps charge for premium services. Some like Match.com and eHarmony are fee-only. A decade ago, many sites were free or had minimal fees of around $20 a month. (Match.com charged $9.95 per month when it launched in 1995.) Today, dating sites can charge between $10 and $60 per month, depending on the length of the subscription.
Shares of Match Group
which owns Tinder and OkCupid, were down over 3% Thursday. Several major online dating platforms—including Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble—use Facebook’s platform to connect profiles to dating profiles, using photos and first names in the app. Skittish singletons can then look the person up on Facebook, if they have mutual friends, and find out more about them.
Facebook Dating essentially cuts out the middle man, said Chelsea Reynolds, an assistant professor at California State University, Fullerton who studies online dating. “Matching Facebook users based on likes, events attended, and groups involved with may link people who would theoretically get along in online contexts, but who may not be interested in an offline romantic connection,” she said.
“For instance, I use my Facebook profile primarily to build my professional visibility,” she added. “I am in groups dedicated to professors, media practitioners, and LGBTQ activists. Am I passionate about those communities? Absolutely. Am I trying to date within my professional circle? No way.”
Facebook’s reach could be an incentive for social-media fanatics. The company has so much data that it may be better at making matches.
Facebook has come under fire in recent times for how it uses user data, following a scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a firm that used data to influence the 2016 presidential elections, and improperly accessed the data of at least 87 million Facebook users.
Consumers may be put off Facebook extending its ecosystem into yet another part of people’s social lives, in the same way Amazon
has done with e-commerce. Still, Zuckerberg apologized for the privacy violations and said the company would review all third party apps accessing data on the site.
It could also be an incentive for Facebook users: The company has so much data that it may be better at making matches.
“Facebook’s pivot into the online dating industry is a logical move,” Reynolds said. “Given that they’re mining huge amounts of data about consumer behavior and individual identity, it makes business sense to harness the algorithms for matchmaking — especially given that Tinder and other dating platforms already use Facebook as their screening tool.
But Facebook Dating faces the same unenviable task as every other dating site. “Facebook’s dating app’s effectiveness will be determined by how that algorithm calculates matches,” she said.