Testing of the Facebook dating platform has begun, just three months after CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the idea at the company’s annual F8 conference.
Independent app researcher Jane Manchun Wong uncovered evidence that the testing process was underway, and captured screenshots of the experience on her Twitter account.
“This product is for US Facebook employees who have opted-in to dogfooding Facebook’s new dating product,” the first screenshot reads.
Don’t worry – “dogfooding” isn’t some kind of dating terminology you’ve missed, but the slang used by employees for testing software. “The purpose for this dogfooding is to test the end-to-end product experience for bugs and confusing UI.
“This is not meant for dating your coworkers,” the introduction adds, asking Facebookers to fill the fields with dummy data for testing purposes.
Although Wong says she was blocked from activating her full profile as a non-employee, she was able to get plenty of screenshots of the signup process including the option to be matched with men, women, trans women, trans men and non-binary Facebook users.
Wong also reveals that Facebook is working on something called “Conversation Starter” to provide suggestions on what to say to break the ice with a new match.
Facebook has since confirmed that it is testing the product internally but hasn’t added anything else since the product was officially announced.
Should rivals be worried?
Data recently revealed that Tinder’s place at the top of the dating market seems pretty much unassailable. But if there’s anyone that could take it on, it’s surely Facebook.
Tinder’s huge success was making dating simple and accessible while killing the social stigma that had previously dogged online dating. To that end, some 50 million-plus people use it every month, according to generally accepted estimates.
That’s impressive, but Facebook has over two billion members. And yes, many of those are in relationships, but Zuckerberg says that at least 200 million have checked the box labelled ‘single’, and that’s without even considering the millions of people who just haven’t bothered filling in their relationship status for whatever reason.
These singletons already have Facebook accounts, removing the slight barrier to entry that other dating apps face. It shouldn’t take much nudging on Facebook’s part to get users to activate their dating profile – especially as the company is keen to stress that friends won’t see your activity, and there’s no risk of being matched with people you already know.
On the day Facebook announced its intention to enter the dating game, the stock of the Match Group – which owns OkCupid, Tinder and Match.com – fell a massive 17%. Rather than indicating pessimism, that could yet prove to be an optimistic take on the incoming disruption.
The opt-in feature will sit outside of the main news feed. However, we can presume Facebook will also leverage everything it knows about users to match them up.
In his keynote address, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the service aims to establish “real long-term relationships – not just hookups”. He added: “We want Facebook to be somewhere where you can start meaningful relationships. We’ve designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning.”
In a blog post, the company elaborated: “We’re building a feature for dating and relationships within the Facebook app. People already use Facebook to meet new people, and we want to make that experience better. People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends.
“They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events. However, what people do within the dating feature will not be shown to their friends. We’ll share more information when this begins testing later this year.”