Online dating has come a long way since the 1980s, when phone dating services and electronic pen-pal networks became a thing. But since the launch of the first dating website in 1995, what we now understand as online dating hasn’t evolved much.
From Match.com to Tinder, however, the appeal of online dating business has grown, making it just as popular among adults under the age 25 as it is among adults in their late 50s and 60s. Seeing the sector as a potential goldmine, Facebook created its own dating features, which is now under test in Colombia.
Unlike Tinder, Facebook’s approach to online dating seems to follow the Hinge model, asking users to answer questions so they can be matched with others who share similar tastes and interests. Facebook Dating even takes into consideration whether potential matches have shared page likes.
As the user browses Facebook Dating’s selection of people, he or she may then “express interest” by answering a question prompt or tapping a photo. The feature then gives the user the possibility to write a note to the person they’re interested in, which the person is free to ignore or send a message back.
Going against the Tinder model seems to be Facebook’s bet for the dating industry, as it hopes to get people to engage in conversation and meaningful relationships. But will Facebook Dating be as popular as Bumble or even Tinder, which bets on people’s thirst for “hooking up” rather than finding “soul mates?”
While Bumble hopes to put women in charge, only allowing them to make the first move in heterosexual matches, Facebook Dating wants to give the user a very similar experience to what you would get on Facebook itself. And perhaps, the fact people are so familiarized with the platform may help launch the system, making it popular among all age groups.
Still, some techies are afraid of the Silicon Valley giant’s new venture, claiming the system will only serve as yet another data harvesting tool, giving the company even more access to users’ privacy.
Can Facebook Dating Earn Your Trust?
It’s hard to trust Facebook after countless stories depicting the company’s “partnerships” with governments, both here and abroad, were unveiled. However, many data privacy advocates take greater issue with Facebook sharing data with third private parties and seldom remind their audience that the most concerning issue at heart is Facebook’s willingness to be the government’s lapdog, providing data to law enforcement agencies and seldom taking privacy concerns into consideration.
The idea that Facebook will now have access to even more private information from its users may bother those who believe that what they disclose to a private organization should stay between the two of them, not between them and the government.
While individuals have legal recourse when they believe a company failed to follow its own privacy policies, exposing them to risks, they do not have any means to protect themselves from the federal government.
As former National Security Agency (NSA)’s contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden showed us, the federal government’s power is unchecked and broad. It ignores the U.S. Constitution by repeatedly violating our Fourth Amendment rights and regularly “partnering” with private organizations to spy on innocent Americans. Are we really sure that Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg is serious when he says he protects his users’ data?
If online dating service consumers answer positively to these questions then perhaps, Facebook Dating will be as popular as its competitors.
As Pew Research found, the stigma associated with online dating has dissipated over the decades and now, five percent of Americans in a marriage or serious relationship say they met their significant other online. Knowing Facebook has established itself as a social media giant, capable of keeping users interested despite the competition, its dating software may benefit greatly from the Facebook brand, prompting established online dating sites and apps to, perhaps, rethink its strategy to remain popular.
While the feature is still being tested, making it difficult for anybody to predict how the market will respond, it will be interesting to see how the online dating world will adapt if Facebook Dating actually takes off. While we’re sure the company doesn’t stand to lose much if this new venture doesn’t work out, it might scare the big names in online dating to force them to adapt. And perhaps, that will help online dating site users, as consumers always benefit from tough competition.
The big picture lesson is this. In a market-driven economy, technology that wins the day is part of the web of human experience, chosen by users, promoted by businesses, and improved in a competitive environment of entrepreneurs. The market for online dating reaches to the most intimate aspects of the human experience, and it is here that markets reveal their capacity for serving human life better than any alternative.