Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here comes Facebook with an apologetic new service that will appear to make you happy, while gobbling up more of your personal data. News of the dating service was released by CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a presentation at Facebook’s F8 developer’s conference. “If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships this is perhaps the most meaningful of all,” Zuckerberg said. Facebook now will be the alpha to omega, from friends to soulmates. You give Mark your most personal data, thoughts and desires; what could go wrong?
Facebook is entering an already crowded market of players in the $3 billion dating industry. Revenues are split between advertising and subscriptions for the most part. With some 2 billion users throughout the world, Facebook should have no problem carving out a niche in the dating world. Unlike other dating sites, Facebook has a friendly and non-threatening familiarity to its users. According to NYC dating coach Meredith Golden, “The new feature will be used largely by divorcees and users over 40 who may be less likely to use other online services. It’s an almost seamless transition to dating.”
It has yet to be determined if Facebook will charge a fee for this service. Many dating apps charge for premium services. Some like Match.com and eHarmony are fee-only. The online dating market is dominated by younger generations, but the 55 to 65 age group is among the fastest growing. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of 55 to 65-year-olds dating online has doubled from 6% in 2013 to 12% in 2017, with the share of 18 to 24-year-olds using online dating services nearly tripling from 10% to 27% in that time.
In the wake of the Facebook dating announcement, other matchmaking sites took a dive. Shares of Match Group, which owns Tinder and OkCupid, were down 9.6% Tuesday. Media mogul Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, which controls 80% of Match, tumbled by 17.8% to 133.33. Facebook climbed 1.1% to 173.86. Facebook may be to dating what Amazon has been to retail. Zuckerberg told his F8 audience that the match-making feature would take privacy issues in mind and would launch “soon.” As alarming as it sounds, something tells me that the search for love on Facebook will trump the average person’s worries about giving out their hair color or whether they own a car to a stranger.
The F8 audience of developers was probably less interested in dating than they were with their limited access to data. Zuckerberg proposed faster and better review time for apps in the development queue. In regard to his second audience, you, he attempted to allay your privacy fears, while at the same time enticing you into his data web. You will probably not get a free Oculus VR Go headset, as did the 5,000 attendees, but you may get something more, a meaningful, long-term relationship. A lot has changed since the Shakespearean days, but this phrase has remained the same. Love is blind.