How Will Facebook Connect Affect Online Dating?
Back in 2002, a Wired opinion predicted that,
“Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love without looking for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because ‘the right books are found only by accident.’ Serendipity is the hallmark of inefficient markets, and the marketplace of love, like it or not, is becoming more efficient.”
Today, seven years later, it’s no surprise that the online dating landscape has evolved far beyond traditional sites like Match.com and eHarmony that pioneered the online dating industry. People are increasingly moving to applications that leverage the identity they’ve already created inside social networks like Facebook and MySpace – not to mention mobile.
So far, we’ve already seen a number of Facebook applications focused on dating, like Zoosk, SpeedDate, and Flirtable. However, since Facebook Connect’s launch in early 2008, a handful of dating sites have brought Facebook’s social context out onto their web sites, including AreYouInterested.com, Frintro.com, SpeedDate.com, and Chemistry.com.
Let’s take a look at two of the better integrations: Are You Interested? and Frintro.
Are You Interested?
Are You Interested?, by SNAP Interactive, has integrated Facebook Connect to share lots of information with friends. Users can update their Facebook status’ directly from the site (the status update even includes a link to the site). You can also feature four random Are You Interested? users at a time by publishing them to your Wall and the News Feed.
However, within minutes of signing up on the site (before I had time to upload a photo or edit my profile information), Are You Interested sent me lots of suggested matches, leading me to wonder about their quality. That said, Are You Interested? is leading the space in terms of integrating its services across its destination site, its Facebook app, and its iPhone app.
Frintro, one of this year’s 2009 fbFund winners, is the first dating site built entirely on Facebook Connect. Despite a heavy integration with Connect, the Frintro approach is a lot less visible to your friends. On the homepage, Frintro assures users that: “NOTHING you do on Frintro will be published back to Facebook.”
Using Connect, the site gives users visibility to friends of friends – the second degree of the social graph. If you’re single, you can request that your friends give you introductions to their friends; or if you want to play matchmaker, you can forward your friends’ profiles to other friends or make direct introductions between friends. The individuals involved will get Facebook Requests without any public attention directed toward them – no status updates or Wall posts involved. You can learn more about Frintro features here.
The value of Facebook Connect on dating sites is pretty much the same as it is on any other site: an easy login, real identity, bringing your friends along with you, and publishing content back to Facebook. Facebook’s social graph could make it a lot easier for people to sign up to dating sites, learn more authentic information about potential dates, and be introduced to more interesting people. It also offers dating sites the chance to acquire customers through viral content that users can share with their friends.
The tricky part, though, is that when it comes to dating, people are often shy and opt for more personal privacy. Dating sites that use Facebook Connect to populate user profiles or involve trusted friends in the matchmaking process must make a commitment to respect the privacy of their users to succeed in the long run.
“So get in there while you can, because early next year , our instant-messaging client will have video capability. Technology marches on, thank goodness,” the Wired Magazine article concludes. In 2009, technology has marched on to bring the social graph to dating sites. We’re looking forward to seeing how big of an impact these new services make.