Considering Facebook’s origins as a spin-off from a ‘Hot or Not’-style creation, it’s almost surprising that it’s taken this long for the social network to announce plans to move into online dating.
Of course, plenty of existing dating apps use information from your Facebook profile to help connect you to potential partners with similar interests, but ol’ Facey B has never cut out the middle man in any sort of organised way.
That has now changed, though, with Mark Zuckerberg announcing plans to launch ‘Facebook Dating’ at an unspecified time in the near future.
It will be, in Zuckerberg’s words, “for real long-term relationships, not just hook-ups,” and testing is due to begin before the end of 2018.
Facebook has allowed people to list their relationship status and sexual preferences since its early days as a platform exclusively for those with a university email address, and Zuckerberg claims 200m users list their status as single.
At the company’s developers’ conference he noted that the company hadn’t built any features to help people find partners, despite the number of single people in the app, and explained the new feature will be available within the app – but would be “totally optional – opt-in”.
“People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends,” a release from Facebook explains.
“They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events. However, what people do within the dating feature will not be shown to their friends.”
As reported by The Verge, there will be a few ways in which Facebook Dating profiles will be able to work in tandem with other aspects of the broader Facebook environment.
The profiles will be similar to those on major dating apps, with users able to list their job and city and choose a profile photo, and an ‘unlocking’ feature mentioned by Facebook’s Chris Cook will let people make their dating profiles visible to others in the same groups as them, or those who have clicked ‘attending’ for the same events as them.
People’s dating profiles will not be visible to their Facebook friends, and they’ll only be recommended to people who are specifically not among their friends, in a move which Zuckerberg explains is designed with privacy in mind.
However, notably, it does not look like users will be restricted from using the dating service if they are married or in a relationship – perhaps to ensure those in open relationships are not restricted.
The stress on privacy is significant, considering the debate around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica which has plagued the company of late.
It will remain to be seen, of course, whether the use of a specific opt-in set-up is unique to the dating vertical, or whether it will be common to other new additions moving forward.