Facebook launches ‘Dating’ service: “Not just for hookups”

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Facebook (FB) will roll out a series of features to facilitate dating, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday.

He said the service will be opt-in and, to preserve people’s privacy, not viewable to users’ friends. It will also only suggest possible partners who are not already Facebook friends with a user. Testing will start later this year.

“This will be focused on long-term relationships, not just hookups,” Zuckerberg said at the company’s developer conference, called F8.

“We’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships,” he said, and “this might be the most meaningful of all.”

That seems a direct swipe at Tinder, which is still best known for hooking people up with people they find attractive by showing their photo, age and first name.

Interested users will be able to set up dating profiles that are separate from their main Facebook profiles, including only the person’s first name — a feature similar to Tinder. Users of the dating app will be able to browse events near them, check out profiles of other users attending those events and chat privately with people they’re interested in.

“We like this because it mirrors the way people actually date, which is at events and institutions they’re connected to,” said Chris Cox, Facebook’s product head.

Of course, Tinder itself uses Facebook data to act as a digital matchmaker, as do many other dating apps.

News of the social network’s dating venture sent shares of online dating site Match Group, which also owns Tinder adn OKCupid, tumbling 22 percent Tuesday afternoon.

Zuckerberg noted that 200 million people on Facebook are listed as single, and that 1 in 3 marriages in the U.S. start online. (This is true of recent marriages, according to a 2013 study.)

The company has been under fire recently for possibly not considering users’ privacy and security in its features. “We believe Facebook users are likely to be somewhat skeptical of using Facebook for dating given recent privacy concerns,” analysts at Raymond James wrote in a research note.

There were also some online rumblings that the dating feature might be open only to people who list themselves as “single” and not those who are “married” or “in a relationship,” ignoring the subset of people who are in non-monogamous relationships. But Facebook said this is not the case. After all, people often don’t keep their relationship status up to date, don’t use it in a serious way (in a complicated relationship with pizza, anyone?), or simply leave it blank.

The company announced several other new initiatives as well, including one called “Clear History,” a tool that will allow users to see what apps and websites share information with Facebook and delete this information from their account.

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