Menlo Park, CA — Facebook wants to help people find love on its platform.
At its annual developers conference, F8, on Tuesday, the company announced a new dating feature.
Users can set up a dating profile with their first name, which the company said won’t be visible to friends and will not appear in News Feeds. The feature is opt-in and users will not be matched with people they are already friends with, according to Facebook.
Before dating, the social networking behemoth has expanded into numerous other features pioneered by other tech companies, ranging from job postings to payments and online food delivery. Although Facebook has positioned these endeavors as just adding utility for users, they’ve been part of a broader effort to get people spending as much time as possible on Facebook. By providing a range of services in one place, the company becomes even more indispensable in people’s lives.
And, of course, in doing so it also maintains its dominance over competitors, whether established or potential.
Before introducing dating, Facebook created Marketplace, where people can browse items for sale nearby, in a bid to compete with Craigslist and eBay. It allowed users to order takeout directly from fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, Panera and Papa John’s, much as companies like Seamless and GrubHub do. it allowed users to send money to friends on the platform, as the social payments company Venmo does.
Investors in other online dating platforms appear spooked by Facebook’s move into the space. Shares of Match Group — the parent company of dating platforms like Tinder, Match.com and OKCupid — plunged as much as 22% on Tuesday afternoon following the news. Shares of IAC/InterActiveCorp, the majority owner of Match, also fell 11%.
On Facebook’s dating service, people will be able to browse events and groups related to their interests, such as upcoming concerts or groups for runners. If a user sees an event they’d like to attend, they will be able to “unlock” that event to interact with others attending it.
From there, their dating profile will be shared with other people going to the event who are also using the dating service. They will be able to browse through those users and start a conversation in a private messaging inbox that isn’t connected to the Messenger or WhatsApp apps.
“I know a lot of you are going to have questions about this. We’ve designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning,” Zuckerberg said during a keynote speech.
Other details about the service are unclear. The dating feature is set to roll out later this year.
Beyond creating new competition for popular dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble, Facebook’s move will pose a test for them because they have largely come to rely on asking their users to login with Facebook credentials. This grants the apps access to select Facebook data, which helps to speed up the process of creating dating profiles.
The degree to which dating apps are reliant on Facebook access came into the spotlight just last month.
Shortly after Facebook announced stricter rules for its third-party developers, Tinder stopped working for some of its users who were temporarily unable use their Facebook credentials to log into their Tinder accounts. The issue was resolved but it was unclear exactly which Facebook updates caused the issues for Tinder.
And amid concerns about how Facebook is sharing user data, Bumble announced last month that iOS users no longer need to signup or login with Facebook. Instead, they can input a phone number to register and login.
A spokesperson for Bumble said the company was “thrilled” when it saw the Facebook news.
“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,” the spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNNMoney.
Bumble and Match Group have been engaged in a very public legal battle in recent weeks.
The tone of the statements issued by Match Group and its majority owner were noticeably different from Bumble’s.
“Come on in. The water’s warm. Their product could be great for US/Russia relationships,” read a statement from IAC CEO Joey Levin.
In a separate statement, Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg said the company is “flattered that Facebook is coming into our space – and sees the global opportunity that we do – as Tinder continues to skyrocket.”
“We’re surprised at the timing given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory,” Ginsberg’s statement read. “Regardless, we’re going to continue to delight our users through product innovation and relentless focus on relationship success. We understand this category better than anyone. Facebook’s entry will only be invigorating to all of us.”
In a statement, a Hinge spokesperson said Facebook copied the dating app’s tone.
“Facebook could have copied swiping apps in its attempt to enter the dating space, but instead they copied Hinge,” the spokesperson said. “It validates our anti-swipe, pro-dating movement, which we’ll continue to lead through exciting innovations that connect our members for outstanding first dates. We’re happy to see that our movement to create meaningful connections, not games or hookups, is catching on.”