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.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.