Facebook is launching a new dating app on the social media platform, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced at an annual developer conference on Tuesday. The feature, is designed to compete with popular services like Tinder.
It will only be visible to non-friends who also opted into dating. Facebook will match you by a slew of preferences. And because it has more data on you than any other app, it could deliver more relevant matches. This feature will start testing later this year.
Facebook explains that “potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”
Speaking in front of a packed crowd in San Jose, Zuckerberg described the new dating feature as a tool to build “real long-term relationships – not just hookups”.
“We want Facebook to be somewhere where you can start meaningful relationships,” he continued. “We’ve designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning.
The announcement sparked gasps from the crowd and seemed to attract the most interest from the audience during Zuckerberg’s short speech, which focused on the company’s widening privacy scandal, new safeguards meant to protect users’ data and misinformation and fake news on the site.
Chris Cox, the chief product officer, said the dating feature would be “opt-in” and “safe” and that the company “took advantage of the unique properties of the platform”.
Cox showed a user’s hypothetical dating profile, which he said would be separate from an individual’s regular profile, accessed in a different section of the site. The dating feature would use only a first name and only be visible to those using the service, not an individual’s Facebook friends. The feature would not show up in the news feed, he added.
Cox said users of this feature could browse and “unlock” local events and message others planning to attend. If a potential date responded, the two would then connect via a text messaging feature that is not connected to WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
“We like this by the way because it mirrors the way people actually date, which is usually at events and institutions they’re connected to,” Cox said. “We hope this will help more folks meet and hopefully find partners.”
The sample profiles displayed at the conference resembled some basic features of Tinder.
Shares of Match, the company that owns Tinder, OkCupid and Match.com, fell by 21 per cent after Zuckerberg announced the new feature, according to Bloomberg.
Match and Tinder did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Bumble, another dating app that recently stopped requiring users to log in through Facebook, said the company was “thrilled when we saw today’s news”.
“Our executive team has already reached out to Facebook to explore ways to collaborate. Perhaps Bumble and Facebook can join forces to make the connecting space even more safe and empowering,” the statement added.
The CEO noted that one in three marriages in the US now started online. He said couples who met on Facebook have repeatedly thanked him over the years.
The announcement of the dating feature came after Zuckerberg acknowledged that it has been a particularly “intense” year for the company, following revelations that millions of Americans’ personal data was harvested from Facebook and improperly shared with the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.