Facebook announced plans to release Dating, its new Tinder competitor, at the recent F8 conference. Match Group’s shares immediately took a hit.
Thea Sokolowski holds an MBA from Oxford University’s Said Business School and has been uncovering insights in the social and media space for nearly 10 years.
At its annual F8 conference Facebook shared that it plans to use its data to help you find a date. Incumbents in the online dating world like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge depend on Facebook’s data to power their own platforms. Will this mean restricted access for those companies? Or will they simply be Amazon-ed out of the industry? According to the drop in stock value for Match Group moments after the announcement, they should be scrambling.
Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference kicked off May 1st in Silicon Valley, as the world presumably held its breath to see what next steps the social giant would announce. Sentiments around increased focus on data privacy were interspersed throughout, beginning not-so-subtly with an apology from CEO Mark Zuckerberg over recent scandals, before he launched into the brand’s exciting updates.
After the predicted announcement of Oculus, their first foray into VR; a Messenger app redesign; and new AR camera effects, the team surprised some viewers with announcements like “Clear History” capabilities allowing users to wipe their browser data, and perhaps most unexpectedly, the launch of Facebook Dating.
Brands like Snapchat, Twitter and the usual social competitors have been watching Facebook closely for a while. But this recent direct attack may have taken dating apps like Tinder and Bumble off guard if they weren’t looking out at breadcrumbs left behind.
As WIRED keenly pointed out, many of these apps have been using Facebook data and Facebook logins to fuel the core of their product since they began. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, then, that the giant has decided to take such a popular offering in house. But what happens when the very engine powering your product becomes the competition?
“Dating apps like Tinder have long relied on Facebook’s data to operate their service in the first place,” Louise Matsakis stated in WIRED. “Until recently, you couldn’t even sign up for a Bumble account if you didn’t already have a Facebook account. It’s not unreasonable to wonder whether these apps would even exist without the social network.”
Facebook Dating enters the scene
The new feature will enable users to create a separate profile that is entirely independent of their existing one, but leverages all of its data. Users’ friends wouldn’t be able to see their dating activity, and they wouldn’t be shown matches they’re already friends with. Instead, Facebook’s algorithms will offer potential dates based on interests, things in common and mutual friends.
This appears in line with Facebook’s recent increased focus on building communities and encouraging interaction offline. They claim they’re looking to bring together people who may not necessarily know one another personally by leveraging common interests and experiences.
In early 2017, on a visit to MEST Africa in Ghana, CPO Chris Cox spoke on the brand’s increased dedication to community building: “The original Facebook wasn’t about your friends. It was about getting to know all the other people in your school. Going into 2017, we’re trying to invest in those communities and groups where you have a shared interest or experience, to see how you can stay in touch the way you stay in touch with your close friends.”
Dating appears to be the next progression in its history of relationship-building – from Facebook Groups that led to some of the largest offline gatherings in history, to the brand’s Discover People feature intended to help users find new friends and facilitate connections.
But this isn’t their first look at using data to predict dating trends. Back in 2014, Facebook published a study that looked at its data to make relationship predictions among users – including when a courtship might start, when it will end and at what point it has intensified offline. They even looked at correlations in terms of age, religion and length of a relationship.
Based on data from aggregate couple behavior, observed over the course of its 14-year existence dating sites for College professionals, Facebook in fact knows more about you and your dating habits than you do.
We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world
Timing is everything
While the announcement may not be all that surprising, many, including Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg, question its particular timing, given the brand’s recent muddy waters in the personal data space. According to Bloomberg, she stated in an email that Match is “flattered that Facebook is coming into our space – and sees the global opportunity that we do… [but] we’re surprised at the timing given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory.”
After the Facebook announcement, Match fell 22 percent to $ – the biggest one-day drop in its history. This came just as Tinder is facing negative customer reactions following a glitch due to Facebook’s privacy updates. The incident involved the disappearance of all of some users’ matches, and demonstrates just how much power the social giant wields over these brands.
If Snapchat’s ongoing struggles are any indication, many dating apps should be worried. But then again, this has always been an incredibly crowded space, with many apps thriving based on very niche appeal. We’ve already seen increased dating app fatigue and survived the dawn of the ‘dating apocalypse,’ which has forced these brands to innovate or die.
Only time will tell who survives, but one thing is for sure. Those brands who are leveraging AI to predict their competitors’ next moves will be infinitely more prepared to weather the storm than those that don’t.