by Laetitia Drevet
Right, left, right again. If your thumb is tired of swiping on potential partners, take a break: Facebook will soon be launching a brand new dating feature, doing away with Tinder’s swiping system.
The announcement, made by Mark Zuckerberg during his annual development conference, comes at a crucial time for Facebook.
Just a few weeks after the Cambridge Analytica scandal began, trust in Facebook is at its lowest point in years. Some users are reluctant to share more personal data with Facebook and dating preferences might be a step too far.
“I don’t want Facebook between me and my dates. Who knows what they could use the data for? If it weren’t for Messenger I would have already deleted my account,” said Tina, 26.
The new Facebook dating feature will use standard profiles but is still an “opt-in” service. The feature only requires first names, large pictures, and a yes or no answer from users. Dating profiles will not be visible in news feeds.
Online dating is a lucrative market. The Pew Research Center has found that more than 59 per cent of American adults trust online dating. Five years after its release, Tinder claims to register more than a billion swipes a day.
A boost in popularity is just what Facebook needs. According to a recent study by eMarketer, Facebook is losing younger users at an even faster pace than expected. Two million users aged 24 and younger will quit Facebook this year. The dating feature might well be a way of winning back this generation, representing more than half of Tinder’s users.
But is Facebook’s plan to simply replace Tinder? Not exactly: whilst on the surface Facebook’s dating feature and Tinder seem similar, Zuckerberg maintains that the real difference lies in the purpose of his app.
“This is going to be for building real long term relationships, not just hookups,” he said.
Zuckerberg hopes to achieve this by making the date as “natural as possible”, with the app proposing matches according to the events that users say they will attend.
“We like it because it mirrors the way people actually date,” said Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer. There’s no longer a need to choose between your date and a concert you want to go to: Facebook will handle the awkward small talk for you.
Zuckerberg swears subscriptions will remain confidential as matchmaking can only take place with non-friends. However, Facebook cannot guarantee total privacy.
Potential users seem resigned. “My Tinder account is already linked to Facebook, right? If I use this new app, it would mostly be for practical reasons. An all-in-one app: well, why not?” said Harry, 25.
Only time will tell whether or not the promise of true love is enough to seduce sceptics back to Facebook.
Featured Image by Esan Swan