Facebook Inches Closer To Online Dating

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By the looks of things, Mark Zuckerberg is pretty much determined to take over the entire Internet.

Facebook has dabbled in just about everything, from email to a digital newspaper. There's been talk before of Facebook entering the online dating market, but a new update makes that possibility look closer than ever.

In some ways, Facebook has always inadvertently been a dating site. From the very beginning, it’s been a place to stalk exes, reconnect with old flames, bond with semi-strangers, and confess to crushes. Some thought that the introduction of Facebook's Graph Search heralded a new era of the social network as a barely disguised dating site, but the idea never really came to fruition. Now Facebook is taking things a step further, with a new button that allows users to ask people without a declared relationship status if they're single.

The “Ask” button appears next to the Relationship Status section of the Facebook profile. Clicking it brings up a dialogue box with text that reads “Let [your friend] know why you're asking for [his/her] relationship status.” If you receive such a request and choose to reply, you can opt to share your answer with all your friends or just the asker. Ask buttons had already been introduced for other aspects of the Facebook profile, like hometown and phone number.

"This feature provides an easy way for friends to ask you for information that's not already on your profile," Facebook spokeswoman MoMo Zhou told CNN. "For example, a friend could ask where you work or for your hometown. If you choose to answer, this information is then added to your profile. By default, only you and your friend can see it, and you also have the option of sharing it with others, too."

That explanation pointedly steers clear of mentioning dating, but there's no doubt Facebook has the potential to be a disruptive force in the online dating industry. Facebook made nearly $8 billion in 2013 revenue, a massive jump on the comparatively small $2 billion in revenue made by the online dating market. On top of that, Facebook already has a large global customer base and next to no need to spend money on customer acquisition. And then there's the fact that Facebook is free, which gives it an enormous advantage over the many online dating sites that charge for membership.

Facebook doesn't appear to be in a hurry to explicitly make the transition to online dating service, but that is likely working in its favor. Under-the-radar Facebook could subtly siphon business away from traditional dating sites, providing the exact same services without the stigma associated with online dating.

To find out more about the best way to use this social network as a dating tool you can read our Facebook review.