By Seth Fiegerman One conclusion he arrived at pretty early on was that it shouldn't be branded as a dating site.
That's why it was so striking to see Facebook tease a feature clearly intended for dating during the company's big press event on Tuesday for Graph Search , a new search engine that lets members use natural language to pull up recommendations for people, places and businesses from their social graph. Facebook reps demonstrated several uses for the product, ranging from recruiting to searching for restaurant recommendations.
Then, at one point, a Facebook employee stood on stage and searched for "friends of my friends who are single and living in San Francisco. The bedrock of most dating sites, according to Slater, has been the ability to discover people you don't know who share similar interests, whereas Facebook's focus was on helping you find the people you do know.
Graph Search changes that by making it much easier to search for people outside your immediate social circle. If you want to find single women under the age of 35 who are from your hometown and now live in New York, you can type exactly that into the search engine and see what pops up.
At first blush, it might seem obvious that Facebook could be used for dating purposes. The social network has long served as a place to flirt by letting users advertise their relationship statuses, stalk one another's updates and Poke people they might be interested in. That said, several startups have tried in recent years to leverage Facebook's social graph for dating, but with only mixed success. Yoke was able to rely on Facebook data to help its users find people who shared connections and interests with them, but the problem the dating app faced was providing a way for users to get in touch with those people.
The assumption is that everyone on OkCupid is interested in dating, but on Facebook, even those who label themselves as "single" may not be in the market for a new relationship. On OkCupid, people curate their profiles with a scalpel. If members of existing dating sites are successful in finding matches through Facebook, it could cut into their business. On the other hand, Slater says, Facebook could potentially help the industry by removing whatever "cultural barrier" remains for online dating.
About a third of the single population in the U. Both Slater and Fishman suggest that Facebook has the potential to make it more common for people to use the Internet to find dates, without necessarily stealing away many customers from other online dating sites.
Even before Facebook made its big announcement, Slater says he noticed that a growing number of non-dating platforms are being used for dating purposes, from match-making apps on Spotify to social discovery tools like Highlight.
Meanwhile, he says some dating websites are starting to re-brand a bit by taking the "pink hearts" off their homepage with the goal of being a little more welcoming to those who might previously have been put off by the idea of online dating. Facebook could fit nicely in this trend by serving as a more general social venue where casual users occasionally browse for dates without necessarily branding themselves as online daters.