Monday 19 November 2018

Like? Love? Facebook unveils online dating feature to rival Tinder

  • Will be for finding long-term relationships, 'not just hook-ups'  - Zuckerberg
  • Wants to help the 200 million people on Facebook who list themselves as single
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg (Chris Ratcliffe/PA)
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg (Chris Ratcliffe/PA)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Facebook has announced plans to add a dating service to its social media platform.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the site would soon add a dating tool aimed at creating "real, long-term relationships".

The opt-in feature will enable users to create a separate dating profile to their existing Facebook account, with the site then offering recommendations based on preferences, things in common with other users of the tool, and any mutual friends.

Speaking at the firm's F8 conference, Mr Zuckerberg said the tool would only suggest matches that users were not already friends with, and none of a user's existing friends on the platform would be able to see any of their dating activity.

The Facebook boss said more than 200 million people currently listed themselves as 'single' on Facebook, adding the figure showed there was an opportunity to create new connections as a result.

He added that he wanted the service to be used for real relationships and "not just hook-ups".

Facebook's new take on online dating is rolling out "soon", Mr Zuckerberg said, and will be seen as a direct challenge to the wide range of dating apps and online services already available.

Apps such as Tinder and Bumble have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since launching in 2012, Tinder has grown to become one of the most popular apps on smartphones, in use in more than 190 countries, creating more than 26 million matches every day.

The announcement drew a tongue-in-cheek welcome to the competitive online dating field from IAC, whose holdings include platforms like OKCupid and Tinder.

“Come on in. The water’s warm. Their product could be great for US-Russia relationships”, CEO Joey Levin said in a statement, referencing the fact that Russian-linked operatives have been accused of using Facebook to widen societal divides and influence the 2016 presidential election.

A prototype displayed on screens at the F8 conference showed a heart shape at the top-right corner of the Facebook app. Pressing on it will take people to their dating profile if they have set one up.

The prototype was built around local, in-person events, allowing people to browse other attendees and send them messages.

It did not appear to have a feature to "swipe" left or right on potential matches to signal interest, as Tinder and other established services have.

The feature will be for finding long-term relationships, "not just hook-ups," Zuckerberg said. It will be optional and will launch soon, he added, without giving a specific day.

Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said in a separate presentation that the company would share more over the next few months.

Cox said he had been thinking about a dating feature on Facebook since 2005, when he joined the company about a year after its founding.

The company began seriously considering adding a dating service in 2016, when Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page a photo of a couple who had met on the network, Cox said.

Thousands of people responded to Zuckerberg's post with similar stories about meeting partners on Facebook, Cox said. "That's what got the gears turning," he said.

People will be able to start a conversation with a potential match by commenting on one of their photos, but for safety reasons that Cox did not specify, the conversations will be text-only, he said.

Facebook executives were quick to highlight other features for safety and privacy, noting that dating activity would not show up in Facebook's centerpiece News Feed.

Concerns about privacy on Facebook have grown since the social network's admission in March that the data of millions of users was wrongly harvested by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

A dating service "represents a potentially challenging situation if Facebook can't fulfill its promise to offer dating services in a privacy-protected and safe way," said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer.

However, "I'm sure it will make good use of the data Facebook has been able to collect about its users," she added.

Zuckerberg also said on Tuesday that Facebook was building a new privacy control called "clear history" to allow users to delete browsing history, similar to the option of clearing cookies in a browser.

Reuters

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