Speaking at Facebook’s annual F8 conference this week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company is building a ‘clear history’ tool to give users greater control over how their data is used.

In light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, this is perhaps unsurprising, and a blatant effort to restore confidence and trust in users.

Alongside this, Zuckerberg announced another new feature – one that will yet again rely on users sharing more personal and intimate data than ever before. Enter: Facebook Dating. 

Surely it was only a matter of time…

So, what will Dating entail when it launches, and what are its chances of success – especially amid current scepticism towards the brand? Let’s discuss.

A swipe at Tinder

Bumble, Tinder, and OkCupid are just a few of the biggest names in the dating space, all of which offer users similar chances of finding love online. Interestingly, Facebook’s new Dating service seems to have made the market nervous. Shares of Match Group, which is the parent company of dating platforms like Tinder, Match.com and OKCupid, fell 19% immediately following the news.

But should investors be worried?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Facebook’s history of imitating other social media platforms, Dating looks quite similar to various other dating apps out there. The feature will exist in the Facebook app itself, allowing users to set up their own profile separate to their main Facebook account. This also means that Facebook friends won’t appear as potential matches, and Dating activity won’t appear in anyone else’s feeds.

It also works by way of an algorithm, matching users to others based on ‘things in common’, mutual friends, as well as Groups and Events. The latter is one of the most novel features, as it means you can find out who is going to the same event as you, to chat or potentially set up a date beforehand.

F8 conference

What about privacy?

Naturally, Dating has resurfaced concerns about data privacy, with some users highlighting the irony of Facebook launching such a service on the back of recent scandal.

Pre-empting this, Zuckerberg said that Facebook “have designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning.” And there are some features which are indicative of this focus. 

First, the service is opt-in only, with Zuckerberg also emphasising that users will never be matched with people they already know. Secondly, there is a dedicated Dating inbox, which only allows users to send text-based messages – no links or photos. 

While privacy is clearly at the forefront of users' minds, an important thing to mention here is the fact that many other dating apps already rely on Facebook data. Last month, Tinder briefly stopped working because of changes made to Facebook's data-sharing policy, and Bumble has only recently allowed users to login without Facebook. 

With the market now booming, Facebook clearly wants to take ownership, and bring users interested in dating back onto its own platform.

Where’s the USP?

It’s not yet clear whether Dating will take off, however, one of the biggest challenges (alongside current bad feeling towards the company in general) is whether it will offer enough to lure people away from other dating apps. 

Facebook says that Dating is focused on helping people find meaningful, long-term relationships – not hook-ups. However, this doesn’t seem like much of a unique proposition. 

What’s more, users tend to choose dating services based on specific need. For example, Tinder’s swipe functionality means that it is synonymous with fun and instant connections. Bumble’s hook is that women make the first move, meaning it appeals to those who want greater control over who they’re talking to. Meanwhile, Hinge has already taken Facebook’s ‘meaningful’ angle – matching people based on whether they have mutual friends in common.

Hinge dating app

So, will users want to jump into the rather large dating pool offered by Facebook, or will they remain indifferent?

With a somewhat weak USP, I’m doubtful Dating will spell real trouble for competitors, especially considering that the younger demographic (i.e. the twenty-something Tinder-set) seem more at home using Instagram than they do Facebook nowadays.

Facebook also has a history of mediocre success with new features. Facebook Marketplace is one that springs to mind - a bid to compete with eBay and Craigslist. Reports suggest it’s not proving too much of a problem for the competition. This might also be down to people failing to notice it's there (despite it sitting front and centre in the app). 

In conclusion...

Why has Facebook chosen to move into the Dating market now? Naturally, users are likely to be met with more than just the prospect of romance. With strong links to other industries including events and experiences, bars and restaurants, fashion, and so on – it opens up even more opportunities for advertising.

For now, with specific details about how the service will work (e.g. how to initiate conversations) still unclear, it’s hard to say whether it will generate love from users. 

Regardless, on the back of ‘tough times’ as Zuckerberg himself has labelled the last year, the move indicates that the company is nothing if not optimistic. 

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 3 May, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

724 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

The facebook "clear history" tool is vital, because currently it's close to impossible. I recently spent about 8 hours deleting my facebook history, one post or reaction at a time because that's what they make you do, from when I joined up to about 2 years ago. I reasoned that my older data was only useful for apps - no facebook user would bother to go back years - and after the Cambridge Analytica and Guardian scandals I don't trust apps.

Hopefully facebook will let people choose a retention period of x days and auto-delete older personal data, like the feature that we've just added to Fresh Relevance. Something like this is necessary for GDPR compliance, where Facebook has quite enough problems already.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/facebooks-gdpr-problem-peter-austin/

4 months ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

mahendra JOSHI, No.1 Astrologer at astrologer

thanks! My biggest regret, in fact, is that we haven't been able to groom
someone to take over from me. But well, we're now on the lookout. Hey,
briefly checked out your site. Looks pretty good, will read more!

about 1 month ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.