As Facebook announces its own online matchmaking service, are current dating apps facing the dump?
At their annual developer conference, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled plans for a new matchmaking service called Dating. Going beyond the websites previous romantic features i.e. the ‘poke’, Zuckerberg says the aim is to assist ‘real long-term relationships’ – not just ‘hookups’.
Facebook’s segue into the dating-app sphere has sparked intrigue, especially since a previous incarnation of the site, ‘FaceSmash’ was essentially a ‘hot or not’ rating system where users would pick between headshots of Harvard students. But the technology behind this new app is far more sophisticated. It uses a unique algorithm which matches you with potential dates, based on ‘preferences, things in common, and mutual friends.’
To ensure privacy the app works on a separate profile to your main Facebook. Existing Facebook friends won’t appear as potential matches and your Dating profile will only use your first name.
To avoid unwanted dick pics, Dating will also have a dedicated inbox that does not allow you to send photo messages. You can only send text-based messages when chatting for the first time.
The new feature will only allow text exchanges between matches.
It seems a weird time for the announcement, given the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal found that 87 million Facebook users data was harvested by the political consulting firm.
Are you worried that Facebook’s use of data is becoming too obtrusive? Well, now may be the time to log off because Zuckerberg is about to use it to tell you who you should be fucking.
Maybe privacy infringements make for accurate matches? You both bought heart shaped fairy lights from Amazon, you both listen to One Direction covers on YouTube; it’s a match! Or maybe we will all just keep getting partnered with Russian bots?
Either way, Dating has already changed the matchmaking landscape. After Zuckerberg announced the new feature, shares of Match Group, which also owns OkCupid, Tinder and Match.com, fell by 21% and IAC, Match Group’s parent company, saw nearly a 14% drop in shares.
Mandy Ginsberg, the CEO of Match Group, responded in a statement: ‘We’re going to continue to delight our users through product innovation and relentless focus on relationship success. We understand this category better than anyone. Facebook’s entry will only be invigorating to all of us.’
‘Come on in. The water’s warm’ Joey Levin, the CEO of IAC, Match Group’s parent company, added, ‘Their product could be great for US/Russia relationships.’ Bumble, too, claimed to be ‘thrilled’ at the news, suggesting in a statement that ‘perhaps Bumble and Facebook can join forces.’
But should these other dating apps be worried?
Tinder has welcomed Facebook’s entrance into the cyber-dating space. Yes, Facebook is going to crush other dating apps
One of the unique elements of Dating is a feature which allows users to find romantic interests via shared groups and events. For example, if you’re going to Bestival, you will be able to message potential matches who are also attending. ‘It mirrors the way people actually date, which is usually at events and institutions they’re connected to,’ Chris Cox, the chief product officer said. ‘We hope this will help more folks meet and hopefully find partners.’
‘I could see myself compulsively checking who of my matches are off places’ says Chris Williams, 23, London. ‘Getting excited for some night because I know this girl I have been talking too is off. Also, it gets rid of the whole endless back and forth you have when messaging on Tinder. The ’hey wuu2? Yeah uni is boring’ exchanges. It forces you to meet in real life so you can see whether you actually get on.’
Dating apps like Tinder have also long relied on Facebook’s data to operate their services. They use Facebook photos, and autofill information like where you work, live, and went to school.
Until recently, you needed a Facebook account to sign up for Bumble and Tinder shows you when a potential match has mutual friends on Facebook. Tinder even stopped working when Facebook made changes to its data-sharing policies. It is questionable whether these apps would even exist without the social network.
We are also arguably more authentically ourselves on Facebook than dating apps. ‘I am just way more honest on Facebook’ Freddie Walsh, 23, London explained. ‘There will be some picture of me in Zante in some grim tank top doing a beer bong, but on Tinder I am grinning with some six pack I had eight summers ago or at a leaving ball in a bow tie. It’s just not me.’
Armed with an unrivaled amount of personal data, Facebook’s Dating service is likely to shake up the online matching marketplace.
Do people really want Facebook to receive more information about them? ‘I am wary’ said Hannah Evens, 24, Leeds, ‘one time I was talking about baked beans to my friend and I went on my phone and there were ads for Heinz everywhere. I try to stay away from Facebook as much as possible.’
We all get creepy messages on Facebook anyway, so what happens when romance is actively encouraged? Women surely receive enough ‘hey baby’ DMs already. What would tempt them to sign up for more?
Dating apps also all possess their own individual appeal: Tinder is like Deliveroo for casual sex, Bumble is for slightly more enduring relationships – more drinks in All Bar One than ‘you up?’ texts – and Match.com is for people who really, really (really) want a relationship.
Rather than replacing these apps, Dating will be something different entirely. For when you are so uniquely desperate you are willing to sift through 2.2 billion match possibilities.
Though Dating might not sound appealing, Facebook has already seeped into literally every other aspect of our existence, so why not let it take over our love lives as well? Next up: Facebook jobs, Facebook food, Facebook funeral services, Facebook prisons, Facebook politics, police, weapons. You might not want Dating, but it’s definitely coming for you.