In GIST / Tech by Oluwaseun Samuel on the 21st, September, 2018

Facebook Launched New Dating App – Check Out The Amazing Features

to meet romantic partners through the same platform you use to keep up with your parents, your friends and your weird high school acquaintances?

That is the thorny question Facebook faces with its new dating app, which went on trial in Colombia this Thursday and may soon be available worldwide.

When Facebook announced its dating plans in May, the rationale was obvious: the world’s biggest social network wants to use its giant user base and vast hoard of personal data to capture some of the £3.8 billion the human race spends on internet dating each year.

The question, however, is whether it can offer something that well-established rivals such as Tinder, OK Cupid and Bumble don’t – and whether it can convince users wary of its record on data privacy to trust it with their love lives too.

How it works

In a competitive market stuffed with new features and gimmicks, Facebook Dating is a surprisingly tentative effort.

Right now, Colombian users can make profiles but can’t yet receive matches, so we don’t know whether they’re enjoying it. But Facebook has described in detail how it works.

Facebook Dating sits within Facebook’s existing smartphone app, and anyone over 18 will get a notification about it.

You fill out a profile from your existing photos, answer some personality questions, filter your results and watch your feed fill up with matches as if they were baby photos or viral videos from Unilad.

But Facebook is keen to stress this isnothing like Tinder. “This is about building real, long-term relationships, not just hook-ups,” Mark Zuckerberg has said.

“We don’t want this to feel like a speed-dating session,” added product manager Nathan Sharp. It’s all part of Facebook’s newfound mission to make your interactions with it meaningful (and not just lucrative for Facebook’s ad business).

To that end Facebook Dating actually makes it slightly difficult to express interest in someone. You can’t just sent a Like there way; you have to send them a message, tagged to a photo or a line of information in their profile. Once you’ve sent it, you can’t see their profile anymore unless they choose to get back to you. For now, no fees are planned.

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Safety first

We’re used to big social networks rolling out new features half-cocked, seemingly without much thought about how they might play out in the real world.

Think of when Facebook’s added “Memories”, triggered on the anniversary of old posts, which cheerfully began reminding grieving parents of a time when their children were still alive.

To Facebook’s credit, Dating seems more careful.

To stop people’s dating from contaminating their social life, all messages are kept separate from the main app. Your dating profile is also separate from your main profile (in case, for instance, your friends don’t know your sexual orientation). It won’t match you with existing friends, nor with anyone you’ve blocked (though it might match you with an unfriended ex). Facebook has resisted the temptation to make joining up automatic.

Other features are carefully targeted at making women feel safe on the platform. You can’t contact more than 100 people a day, and you can’t send images (making unsolicited flashing unlikely). To stop catfishing, the app refuses to let you set your own age and area, instead taking them from your Facebook profile and your phone.

“The unsolicited pictures thing is huge for women,” Maya Diamond, a psychologist and dating coach in California, told the Telegraph. “They are really frustrated with swiping apps, because they make you feel like people are a commodity. To have it just be a teensy bit harder to connect is a great idea.”

We know who you are

None of this is revolutionary. Where Facebook presumably hopes to catch up is sheer scale. The service has 2.2 billion users worldwide, 200 million of which say they’re “single”. If half of those people signed up, Facebook Dating would have more active users than Tinder and OK Cupid combined.

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Moreover, Facebook holds data on those users that other sites can’t hope to match. “When you answer questions on OK Cupid, you are thinking about how your answers will look,” Joseph Evans, a market expert at Enders Analysis, told the Telegraph. Facebook has data going back years about pages you’ve liked, events you’ve been to, friends you’ve had – not information about who you say you are, or who you want people to think you are, but what you actually do.

This data could make it quicker and easier for users to get started. Instead of filling out a long questionnaire, you could find matches using only what Facebook already knows – meaning more potential users.

If that fails, Facebook also has a “nuclear option”. Many other dating apps use Facebook as a simple mechanism to sign in and verify your identity. Facebook could revoke this access, citing privacy concerns, and while this might annoy European competition regulators it would certainly harm Facebook’s competitors.

Can Facebook keep secrets?

Yet this close relationship is also Facebook Dating’s biggest problem. Yes, accessing the service through an existing app will make the service convenient for millions. But what if people don’t want to speak to their friends and their paramours in the same place?

Many people still believe that Facebook is recording their conversations, despite the company’s strenuous denials. How many people will really trust that their Dating activity is truly separate?

“People might want harder and faster walls between their social lives and their romantic lives,” said Mr Evans. “They might not want to blur them by having them both on the same platform. Ms Diamond said that many of her clients who use Tinder and Bumble are already nervous about signing in via Facebook, and ask her if the apps will start posting to their profiles.

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On the other hand, she said, some clients would be comforted by the existing links to Facebook because they would see it as a guarantee that the people they are matched with are real and trustworthy. “That is a huge boon for a lot of people who are afraid of catfishing and dishonesty,” she said.

A question of trust

Facebook Dating is a cautious product. Without a clear selling point, it will stand or fall by its ability to suck in Facebook’s existing users – and therefore on whether they see its logo as a comfort or a warning.

Meredith Golden, a dating coach in New York City, told Market Watch she thought the service would be popular with divorcees and users over 40 who already view Facebook as a familiar and unthreatening place but have reservations about dating apps.

Much will depend, according to Mr Evans, on how aggressively Facebook markets the service to Facebook users. “I wouldn’t expect them to make much headway in terms of market share unless they invest a lot into it,” he said.

“We’ll have to wait and see how hard they push it, whether they send notifications to users who list themselves as single, whether they do any advertising around it. Then it would look like they’re trying to pull people into online dating who aren’t already into it.”

So if Facebook Dating launches in Britain, and doesn’t do well, don’t be surprised if it gets very pushy indeed.

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