It's Facebook official: The company is moving into the dating scene.
Facebook Dating — a service that will pair users up based on location, listed interests, and Facebook activity — launched in the U.S. on Thursday. It is the first time the company has officially entered the matchmaking services business stateside, although users have long been using apps like Instagram as unofficial dating tools.
The announcement comes at an interesting time for Facebook ($FB), which is facing scrutiny about its privacy practices from the government and the public. The company claims it took these concerns into consideration when developing the product. Many of the features are opt-in, allowing people to choose what they want to share including Instagram photos, real profiles, and how much of their Facebook activity they want to be considered. All dating activity will exist only in Facebook Dating, and will not be shared across Facebook.
"Facebook has always been about creating relationships, and we think we have found a way to create perhaps the most meaningful relationship of all," Facebook product manager Nathan Sharp said. "There's no reason to wait because the feature is very private, secure, and safe and effective at creating relationships."
With more than 1.59 billion daily active users on Facebook as of June 2019, there's a lot of people potentially looking for love. Facebook believes the dating feature can help it reach users who are unsatisfied with current dating apps as well as those who may have been hesitant to take the plunge into online dating.
"The most meaningful segmentation we are thinking about are the people currently using dating apps, who aren't satisfied with their experience," Sharp said. "[Then there are] the people who have used dating apps but had a bad experience and dropped off. And then there's this third group that we're especially excited to build something for, which is people that are looking for a partner that have never taken the time to experiment with online dating for one reason for another."
Facebook Dating, which will exist within the main Facebook app, could also encourage people to return to the platform and spend more time there. Facebook has lost 15 million U.S. users, compared to 2017, with the biggest drop coming from users between the ages of 12 to 34 according to Edison Research. Facebook activities such as likes, shares, and posts have dropped by almost 20 percent since April 2018, the month after the public learned about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to analytics firm Mixpanel in a report for The Guardian.
"We're always trying to build things that make Facebook more useful and more fun for people, and we think this will help with that," Sharp said.
How to find Facebook love
Anyone over the age of 18 can sign up for a Facebook Dating profile, which will be separate from the person's Facebook profile. First names and ages are required, but other features, like linking Instagram and Facebook profiles or adding more photos, are optional.
Facebook will make match suggestions based on similar preferences and interests, and other opt-in features like mutual Facebook groups and events. If a dating profile seems interesting to a user, they are allowed to comment on the dating profile or tap the Like button.
"We're really excited about features like groups and events on Facebook that bring something unique to the dating space and allow people to date in a context they love and feel comfortable with," Sharp said.
Users will not be paired with any of their Facebook friends, though friends of friends are fair game. However, if someone is interested in a person in their immediate social circle they can use the Secret Crush function. This allows people to upload up to nine Facebook friends or Instagram followers to a hidden list. If one of the selected people adds that users to their list, both are given a notification.
To ensure security, Facebook daters have the option to share the date and live location of a meet-up via Messenger with a friend. Instagram and Facebook Stories will also be integrated by the end of this year, to provide further proof a person is who they say they are and give more insight into a person's personality. Location must be verified once the profile is created, but does not automatically update if the user travels outside the area. The dating chat is only text-based, and will not allow photos and videos.
The service 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. Europe will be added by early 2020.