Facebook Dating

Background:
After a successful trial in Colombia, Facebook has announced the launch of Facebook Dating in 20 countries, with more countries being added to the roster early next year.

Details and Implications:
Facebook Dating is Facebook’s newest offering and first foray into the realm of dating services. Though not entirely a separate entity, Facebook Dating will live within the Facebook app, but in order to use it, users must be a) 18 years or older, b) opt-in to the service, and c) create a stand-alone profile.

The app, which first trialled its beta in Colombia, has now officially launched in the US and is also available in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay and Vietnam. Facebook Dating will then roll out to European countries early next year.

Similar to top dating services like Tinder and Bumble, users will be able to combine their Instagram profiles with their Facebook Dating profile so that they can push their Instagram photos onto their profiles and soon their Stories. However, unlike popular dating services, there is no swipe feature to find matches. Instead, a new feature called ‘Secret Crush’ allows Facebook daters to choose up to nine ‘secret crushes’ from their Facebook friends and Instagram followers. A match is made if both users add each other to their ‘Secret Crush’ list. In addition, Facebook said it will also suggest matches based on preferences selected when creating your profile, your interests and Facebook activity.

With the amount of data Facebook already has on users, coupled with the amount of data Facebook will gather from Facebook Dating – data that will likely be even more intimate and relevant – it’s no surprise that the app’s mission according to the press release is: “Facebook Dating makes it easier to find love through what you like — helping you start meaningful relationships through things you have in common, like interests, events and groups”.

While Facebook Dating is free to use and will be ad-free (for now), Facebook is entering yet another lucrative market. According to analysts the dating industry is estimated to grow to $12bn by 2020. Match Group, which represents a large part of the industry (owning over 40 dating services including Tinder, Hinge, and Plenty of Fish) brought in $1.7bn in revenue last year from advertising, paid membership and premium pay-in-app features. Bumble, another popular dating service has an annual revenue of $200m and over 55 million users worldwide, with just over 10% opting in to pay for a premium monthly subscription. Facebook, however, accounts for 2.2 billion monthly users, with 200 million of them identifying as ‘single’ and if Facebook Dating sees even a small percentage of the 200 million opting in, there is a potential for it to be a huge player in the market.

Safety also plays an important role in Facebook Dating. Facebook Dating allows users to report and block users, which in turn prohibits people from sending any photos, links, payments, or videos in messages. Users can also tap the Shield icon to share details of an upcoming date with friends or family members via Facebook Messenger and allows user to temporarily share live locations with friends and family when meeting a new person.

Summary:
Though late to the party, Facebook Dating has the potential to unlock another lucrative revenue stream for the social media giant – if it decided to monetise the service. It is also one of the most significant connections between Facebook’s main platform and Instagram. With this launch, Facebook will find itself in a business area with a huge amount of personal data and so privacy issues will be top of mind – from how it will gather data from daters to how it could share that data with third-party advertisers, should at some point the app decide to monetise in this way.

Further Reading:
Facebook | The Verge | Engadget | Business Insider