Facebook has shrugged off recent controversies to announce it is entering the dating market.
Speaking at Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Jose, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said the app, to be known simply as ‘Dating’, marks the social media heavyweight’s first-ever attempt at online dating.
“There are 200 million people on Facebook who list themselves as single. So clearly there’s something to do here,” he said.
"This is going to be for building real long-term relationships, not just hook-ups. It's going to be in the Facebook app but it's totally optional.”
With the Cambridge Analytica scandal still very much fresh in the minds of users, Zuckerberg told the audience that privacy was being treated as a priority.
“We have designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning,” he said. “You will only be suggested people who are not your friends."
Dating will create what is essentially a second profile for Facebook users, with only first names shown.
Like Tinder, users indicate whether they like someone (‘interested’) or not (‘pass’) when they view a profile.
There is a dedicated inbox where matched users can chat, but unlike Messenger, they are not able to send photos or links. Zuckerberg explained this is a safety precaution.
In order to create these meaningful relationships, Facebook uses an algorithm to match potential matches based on dating preferences, common interests and mutual friends.
It will also use groups and events to find matches.
The data Facebook generates has long been at the core of rival services.
Tinder provides the option to autofill personal information and photos from a Facebook profile, while only until recently, you could not sign up for dating service Bumble without a Facebook account.
The rival dating sites took a hit following the announcement, with shares for Match Group, the parent company of popular dating apps OkCupid, Tinder and Match.com, dropping 24% — its biggest crash ever.
But Match Group’s CEO Mandy Ginsberg seemed unperturbed by the newfound competition, and even used the announcement to have a slight dig at Zuckerberg.
“We’re flattered that Facebook is coming into our space—and sees the global opportunity that we do—as Tinder continues to skyrocket,” she said.
“We’re surprised at the timing, given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory."
CEO of IAC, the holding company that owns Match Group, Joey Levin, wasn’t so delicate.
“Come on in. The water’s warm. Their product could be great for US/Russia relationships,” he told CNN.