Zuckerberg Wants to Make Facebook About Dating

Fake news, political manipulation—how does Facebook put all that behind it? How about a dating app?

2 min read
2 phones with people and a heart and Facebook icon on them to indicate dating through Facebook.
Photo: iStockphoto

In the movie The Social Network, writer Aaron Sorkin suggested that Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook pretty much just to meet girls. Zuckerberg denied that at the time, saying that even from its tiny start at Harvard, Facebook’s goal was to improve the world. The truth is likely somewhere in between.

But after a year of struggling with Facebook’s privacy issues, security breaches, fake news, and political manipulation, the idea of using Facebook to meet girls is a lot more appealing to Zuckerberg than it has been in recent years. In today’s keynote speech at Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Zuckerberg talked about his continued efforts to reorient the social network away from passive consumption of news and videos and towards personal interactions, like groups, individual messages, and dating.

When he’s out and about, Zuckerberg said, couples will come up to him and say they met on Facebook, point to their kids, and thank him. “I’m really proud of that,” he says. (It’s got to be better than testifying in front of Congress).

And all this matchmaking has been happening, he says, without any particular features on Facebook that facilitate it. “Two hundred million people on Facebook list themselves as single, so clearly there’s something to do here,” he said.

Zuckerberg announced a new set of features designed to help people find dates, and the audience of developers responded with loud cheers and applause (though not quite as loud as the cheers reacting to the announcement that all attendees would receive a free Oculus Go).

Facebook’s dating tools, Zuckerberg said, will be “about building long term relationships, not just hookups.” They will keep people’s dating profiles private—and will screen suggestions to make sure they never suggest people you already connect with on Facebook. (Has the man never seen When Harry Met Sally?)

Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, explained in more detail. Facebook’s dating service will operate as a separate app, show first names only, and not share information with Facebook’s news feed. It will be event centric, that is, you indicate interest in going to event, and then check out possible matches who are also interested in attending the same event. This, said Cox, is something he thought would be the next app when he joined Facebook in 2005—it just took longer than he expected.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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