WASHINGTON: Is love the answer on Facebook? The huge social network rolled out its online dating service for the United States on Thursday, a move to take on rivals such as smartphone app Tinder, while focusing on connecting people in “real” long-term relationships.
The free “Facebook Dating” site which was announced last year and already available in 19 other countries will allow users to link their Facebook and Instagram posts to a separate dating profile.
It will seek to facilitate romantic connections among the more than two billion users of the social network worldwide.
“Facebook Dating allows you to match with friends of friends and/or people not in your friend circle,” said a blog post from Nathan Sharp, head of the project.
One of the features, “Secret Crush,” allows people who are friends to connect if they both secretly express interest in each other.
“Facebook Dating won’t match you with friends, unless you choose to use Secret Crush and you both add each other to your list,” Sharp said.
“Finding a romantic partner is deeply personal, which is why we built Dating to be safe, inclusive and opt-in. Safety, security and privacy are at the forefront of this product.”
Sharp said users will have the ability to report and block anyone, and prohibit people from sending photos, links, payments or videos in messages.
Users may share their “stories” posts from the network, which are short video segments.
This will help the service be “authentic in a way that a typical dating profile can’t,” according to Sharp.
Facebook chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg, in announcing the plan last year, said it was being designed for “real, long-term relationships, not just hookups.”
He pointed out that one in three marriages in the United States starts online and that some 200 million Facebook users identify as being single.
Facebook may have an advantage over rivals in that it can allow people to share profiles and images from their social media accounts.
The dating service will be free, unlike some rivals which offer both free and paid plans.
Shares in Match Group, the parent firm of dating applications Tinder and OK Cupid, slumped on Thursday’s news.
Facebook Dating has already launched in 19 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Surinam, Thailand, Uruguay and Vietnam.
It is set to launch in Europe in 2020.
The move comes with Facebook battling to restore its reputation after a series of privacy blunders, including the hijacking of personal data on tens of millions of users ahead of the 2016 US election, and struggles to stem the flow of misinformation and manipulation.
Facebook’s new service offers features that leverage the huge social network’s user base while also promoting safety.
Users may choose to see other people who are using Facebook Dating within the groups in which they participate.
They also may share details of an upcoming date with someone they trust via Messenger.