Tech CEO Exposes Shady Motive Behind Facebook's New Dating Service


Two weeks ago, all the media could talk about when it came to Facebook was Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress, serious questions about data privacy and whether or not the social media platform could ever regain users’ trust.

This week, it seems, all of the buzz is about the fact that Facebook is going into online dating.

While Facebook’s new Dating application — revealed at its F8 developers conference earlier this week — hasn’t entirely taken everyone’s eyes off of Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, the Cambridge Analytica scandal or the censorship of politically-unpopular voices, it certainly hasn’t hurt.

While data privacy was mentioned in almost every article about the new service (Ars Technica noted that while the company said data sharing with the service was “totally opt in,” Dating “apparently has rich ties to default profile data”), the articles were mostly about the service, putting Facebook’s recent woes in the background.

And that, according to the CEO of a competing matchmaking service, is entirely the point.

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Didier Rappaport, CEO of online dating platform Happn, says the timing of the announcement makes it appear an awful lot like a distraction as opposed to a serious move into the dating market, implying it was designed to make the social media giant’s problems “disappear.”

“I have been quite surprised that Facebook would launch a dating service,” Rappaport said in an interview with Business Insider.

“The DNA of a social network and dating service are totally opposite. People like to share lots of things with their friends and family, but not what concerns their private life and dates.”

“It’s quite interesting to note this announcement has been done just a few weeks after the Cambridge Analytica concerns,” he added, telling Business Insider that it might have been launched in part so that Facebook wasn’t forced to “talk about the past.”

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Rappaport also said the fact that Facebook didn’t acquire a more established dating app shows they’re trying to ameliorate another problem: falling usage totals.

While Facebook’s profits were up in the final quarter of last year, Deutsche Welle reported in February, time spent on the platform was down globally by 50 million hours a day in 2017 and the number of Facebook users in the key U.S. and Canadian markets fell for the first time.

When asked about why Facebook didn’t simply buy out a pre-existing dating platform, as they’ve been known to do when expanding into new markets in the past, Rappaport said that traffic numbers were likely the cause.

“They bought WhatsApp, they bought Instagram, that’s usually the way they (approach it),” Rappaport said.

“Here, it’s like they need to do something inside Facebook to re-increase the usage of Facebook. And that’s probably why they haven’t tried to buy any other app.”

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It’s worth noting that the CEO of a competitor would have an interest in portraying Facebook’s new service as being an unserious gambit designed to divert the media’s attention, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

First, actual details of the service were relatively scanty. Wired noted that “the demo version touted on stage by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief product officer Chris Cox looks nearly identical to Hinge,” another dating app.

“Again, Facebook Dating has yet to launch, so it’s impossible to know exactly how much it has in common with Hinge,” wrote Wired’s Louise Matsakis.

“But at first glance, they seem nearly identical, not just because they have the same features but also in the way they’re designed. Facebook didn’t respond to requests for comment about the similarities. Hinge, meanwhile, is playing it off as a compliment.”

Whether the new dating feature manages to distract the press and public from the problems at Facebook for any length of time is a difficult guess. I’m married, so I don’t have to worry about a dating app, but I’m curious who would give their data to a dating service run by a company notorious for abusing data. I doubt I’m the only one.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture