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Facebook to Play Cupid in Online Dating Debut

Facebook Inc is entering the dating game, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday, planning a dating service to matchmake millions of people on the world’s largest online social network and nudge them into spending more time there.

A prototype displayed on screens at the F8 conference showed a heart shape at the top-right corner of the Facebook app. Pressing on it will take people to their dating profile if they have set one up.

Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference. /VCG Photo

Potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common and mutual friends, Facebook said in a statement.

The prototype was built around local, in-person events, allowing people to browse other attendees and send them messages.

It did not appear to have a feature to “swipe” left or right on potential matches to signal interest, as Tinder and other established services have. But there were two buttons for “pass” and “interested.”

Instagram star user JiffPom appears during the F8 Developers Conference in San Jose. / VCG Photo

The optional feature will be for finding long-term relationships, “not just hook-ups,” Zuckerberg said. It will be launched soon, he added, without giving a specific date.

More details will be revealed over the next few months, Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said in a separate presentation.

The company began seriously considering adding a dating service in 2016 when Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page a photo of a couple who had met on the network, Cox said.

Thousands of people responded to Zuckerberg’s post with similar stories about meeting partners on Facebook, Cox said. “That’s what got the gears turning,” he said.

Rachel Franklin, head of social VR for Facebook Inc., speaks during the F8 Developers Conference in San Jose, California, US, May 1, 2018. VCG Photo

People will be able to start a conversation with a potential match by commenting on one of their photos, but for safety reasons that Cox did not specify, the conversations will be text-only, he said. Unsolicited nude photos are a recurring worry on dating services.

Concerns about privacy on Facebook have grown since the social network’s admission in March that the data of millions of users was wrongly harvested by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

An attendee uses a smartphone to take a photograph of a logo during the F8 Developers Conference in San Jose. /VCG Photo

A dating service “represents a potentially challenging situation if Facebook can’t fulfill its promise to offer dating services in a privacy-protected and safe way,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer.

However, “I’m sure it will make good use of the data Facebook has been able to collect about its users,” she added.

Source(s): Reuters
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