Facebook Is Finally Getting Into The Online Dating Game

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Finding love on Facebook? It’s complicated.

At least, it used to be. At this year’s F8 developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage for an announcement many would call long overdue: Facebook is launching a dating feature.

“We’re building a feature for dating and relationships within the Facebook app. People already use Facebook to meet new people, and we want to make that experience better,” the company said in an announcement. “People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends.”

The social networking platform is rife with matchmaking potential. According to Zuckerberg, one in three marriages in the U.S. begins online and 200 million Facebook users list themselves as singles. Facebook’s dating feature “is going to be built around long-term relationships, not hook-ups," he insisted, taking subtle aim at competitors like Tinder.

Facebook dating profiles will be an opt-in service and users will not be matched with people they are already friends with. For additional security, profiles will only include a user’s first name and will not appear in News Feeds.

Those who choose to unlock the feature can view potential matches by checking out interest groups or events going on nearby. They can then browse the dating profiles of other users who are in the group or attending the event, and communicate via a private messaging inbox that will function outside of Messenger or WhatsApp.

Shares of Match Group - the parent company of services including Tinder, OKCupid, and Match.com - plunged as much as 19% following the news. Shares of IAC/InterActiveCorp, the majority owner of Match, also fell 11%. Spark Networks, owner of JDate and Christian Mingle, also closed 4 per cent lower. But not all analysts believe Facebook’s success is a sure bet.

"I can’t see Facebook supplanting Match any time soon – too big a moat," Benchmark analyst Dan Kurnos told Benzinga. "If you want a company that is great at getting people to like things, FB is for you. Aggregating all of that and matching people up based on common interests is not an overnight project, and requires a lot more than machine learning."

The team at Bumble doesn’t appear to see an immediate threat either. A spokesperson said the company was “thrilled” when it saw the Facebook news, telling CNNMoney “Our executive team has already reached out to Facebook to explore ways to collaborate. Perhaps Bumble and Facebook can join forces to make the connecting space even more safe and empowering.”

Facebook may have a long road ahead if it hopes to win over users who prefer to keep their social media separate from their dating profiles, but Zuckerberg believes the dating feature aligns with Facebook’s ultimate mission.

"If we're focused on helping people build meaningful relationships this is perhaps the most meaningful of all,” he said.

Once the new Facebook dating feature goes live we will update our Facebook Dating review with the latest information.