When Facebook announced Graph Search just after a new ‘Pay to Message Strangers’ feature, industry experts said it could kill online dating.
That was before anyone had actually used graph search. Two months and so many searches later, industry experts dish the details—is Facebook really poised to kill online dating?
David Evans says “Facebook basically started as a dating site. It’s uniquely positioned to match people up. Robust authentic profiles, tremendous search capability and over 1 Billion people.”
But just try to use Graph Search for dating. It’s…awkward at best. Sam Yagan, CEO of both OkCupid & Match.com said, “I used graph search and it showed me people who meet my criteria but that didn’t mean I wanted to date those people.” OkCupid is famous for its compatibility algorithm, and Facebook Graph Search lacks similar deep matching capability.
Evans said algorithm based matching is the next step for Graph Search. He anticipates that Facebook will replace user-generated search based on raw data with “a more nuanced algorithm, matching people based on personality type, tastes and preferences.”
Aaron Schildkrout, CEO of HowAboutWe, said the problem is what to do after you’ve found someone you like, “pretend you search for your Bjork loving Cobble Hill 27 year old. You find your match. She looks cool. And then…what? You pay a dollar to message her on Facebook? You friend her out of the blue and wait? To me, these actions all feel just kind of… off. You have the clear sense that this is not quite what Facebook was built to do.”
Neil Strauss, author of “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” said “Facebook is doing a lot of strange things lately to appeal to shareholders. Allowing guys or marketers to just reach into user’s inboxes is a threat to user loyalty. Social networking sites and online dating sites are both great tools but when one tries to become the other it’s a betrayal of their users.”
Sean Suhl, cofounder of Let’s Date agrees, “I would feel awkward about contacting a stranger or friend of a friend on Facebook for romantic reasons because not everyone on Facebook is there to meet people. Anybody I can meet on Let’s Date has said they’re somewhat interested in talking.”
Markus Frind, CEO of Plenty of Fish, agrees, “Facebook isn’t going to kill dating sites. Its all about intent. If you signup to Plenty of Fish there are millions of people who made the decision to signup because they want to be a in relationship.”
The most surprising reason why Facebook isn’t going to change online dating? Facebook is already one of the top places people meet and hook up. Dan Slater, author of “Love in the Time of Algorithms” points out, “We all know that people have already been using Facebook for dating, and that Facebook is the biggest online dating site in the world, even though it doesn’t think of itself as an online dating site.”
Sam Yagan added that “people already use Facebook for dating in that they meet new people and those coversations turn into relationships.”
Slater said, “Facebook has marketed itself as a general tool – like the telephone. It works precisely because it’s a casual social network, not a dating community. It’s kind of for everything so you decide how you want to use it.”
Yagan said, “I dont think Facebook itself wants to be in dating – because its risks alientating the majority of its users that don’t want Facebook to be a dating site.” Slater thinks the genius of Facebook is that it’s useful for online dating without explicitly branding itself that way.
Facebook declined to comment.