Facebook has been in the news quite a bit recently. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the viral memes of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg drinking water at his appearance before Congress, it almost feels like the company has been constantly stealing headlines for weeks now. Amidst all of this controversy, Facebook had their F8 conference, an annual conference for developers of the company, on the first of May. Zuckerberg announced during the keynote speech that the company will introduce a new dating feature for Facebook, commenting that “200 million people listed as single, so clearly there’s something to do here.” He added, “If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful of all.”
For anyone following the history of the company, this shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, many insiders joke that the only reason Facebook was created was for Mark Zuckerberg to rank ladies according to their looks. Jokes aside, that really was how the website started, as a means of reaching ladies and dating. Facebook would later distance themselves from this and become more family friendly, but in doing so it seems they have turned a full 360 degrees and come back to their original proposition. This time, however, Facebook is determined to make it a more permanent feature. They want people to find their lifelong partners on the website, in contrast to what used to be a way to find the prettiest girls in its earliest incarnations.
The results of the announcement were fairly easy to predict as well. The price of stock of Match, a prominent dating company and its parent IAC both went down. The prices plummeted by 22 and 18 percent respectively. The new feature will probably be free, which would challenge Match very well, as Tinder- the only real viable option in the dating scene, has gotten more and more premium features in the last couple of years.
The IAC CEO, Joey Lavin, when asked about this new development, simply brought up Facebook’s controversies in a fun fashion, saying the product could be “great for US/Russia relationships”. He also said that “Come on in. The water is warm”, hinting that his company already has a sizable chunk of that market. The CEO of Match, Mandy Ginsberg, shared similar confident sentiments. She also proceeded to poke fun at the expense of the massive corporation. She said in a statement, “We’re surprised at the timing given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory.” It’s clear at this point that both the CEOs of Match and its parent IAC are trying their hardest to bring up that controversy and to make sure people cannot trust Facebook with their data, but the bottom line is that because of Facebook’s new announcement they have lost tons of money.
Many analysts also speculate this feature to be a way to divert public attention away from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and towards something they can actually market. For months now, Facebook has been trying to put out the raging barn fire that it has been this controversy and the associated data leaks. The CEO, Zuckerberg, has even been brought to trial for this reason. He however, stated at F8 that his company will “keep building [new features] even while we focus on keeping people safe.”
The dating feature comes with its very own texting feature, where only texts can be sent, not images. It will also be separate from the Messenger or WhatsApp apps. As said by Chris Cox, the chief product officer, this new feature is said to mirror real life as it will feature links to events and groups on the website, allowing users to connect through a shared interest, hobby, profession or any combination of the three.
All of this sounds fantastic, especially as Tinder has been useless for non-premium users for a while now. This brings them real competition, something everyone likes to have as consumers in the market. Tinder’s near monopoly being shattered would do wonders for single people worldwide who do not want to pay a premium. That being said, this announcement also means that Facebook will be handling more sensitive data than they ever have, and they do not have a very good record of handling sensitive data. In the coming months we will see if Facebook can put our doubts to rest, or if we see another scandal in the same proportions as (or greater than) Cambridge Analytica.