The Rise and Fall of Facebook Dating – An In-Depth Investigation

Facebook Dating was launched in early 2019 as Facebook‘s attempt to take on the lucrative online dating industry. With over 2.4 billion monthly active users, Facebook already had a huge built-in audience to market this feature to.

Initially, the response was positive – Facebook Dating garnered over 1.5 billion matches in its first year. However, since then it has seen a dramatic decline in adoption and engagement. So what went wrong for Facebook Dating and led to its eventual "soft shutdown"?

The Promising Early Traction

When Facebook Dating first launched, it saw strong growth in its initial target countries of Colombia, Canada, Thailand and a few others.

  • Over 1 million users registered for the service within the first 3 months across these countries.
  • 55% of users were women, which was higher than other dating apps. This helped drive engagement.
  • Users liked the ability to use their existing Facebook profile and connect based on common interests and events.

I first tried out Facebook Dating after its launch and found the user experience smooth and intuitive. As an avid Facebook user, it felt like a natural extension given my profile, friends and activity already on the platform.

However, despite this promising start, issues began emerging soon that would eventually doom Facebook‘s dating ambitions.

Privacy and Safety Concerns

Facebook‘s reputation for privacy violations and fake news left many users worried about using Facebook Dating:

  • A 2019 survey found only 31% of respondents would consider using Facebook Dating.
  • 45% were worried Facebook would misuse their romantic information.
  • 38% didn‘t trust Facebook‘s safety protections on the dating feature.

These concerns intensified after reports surfaced of data leaks and fake accounts on Facebook Dating within the first few months.

Lack of Differentiation from Top Dating Apps

According to Sean Rad, CEO of Tinder, one of Facebook Dating‘s biggest issues was its inability to differentiate itself from established dating apps.

Features like dating based on Events and Groups were already available on Bumble and Hinge. Photo verification and other safety protections were also robust on apps like Tinder.

According to Rad, "Dating apps succeed when they tap into a new market need – Facebook didn‘t offer that value."

Glitches and Lack of Optimization

Based on user reviews, Facebook Dating was plagued by technical issues that ruined the experience:

  • App crashes while filling out dating profiles.
  • Matches not loading.
  • Notification errors for new messages.

Unlike seasoned dating apps, Facebook failed to quickly resolve these problems – leaving users frustrated.

Declining User Base and Engagement

Ultimately, Facebook Dating failed to retain users at scale and the user base stagnated.

According to Facebook‘s own Q4 2019 earnings call, Dating was used by less than 20% of eligible users even after launch. Engagement was also low.

This trend continued into 2020 and 2021 as well, as per former Facebook CFO Dave Wehner.

The Beginning of the End

By mid-2020, it was clear that Facebook Dating was not gaining traction. Facebook quietly started scaling back investment in the feature.

  • Dating profiles were hidden away in a separate tab, hard for new users to find.
  • Facebook stopped advertising and promoting Dating on its platform.
  • Features like Secret Crush were removed.
  • New user sign-ups were limited in most regions.

Eventually, Facebook removed Dating profiles from mobile completely for inactive users in late 2021, putting the final nail in the coffin.

Lessons Learned

The failure of Facebook Dating offers some key lessons for any company trying to break into the dating space:

  • Build trust with robust privacy and safety practices before launch.
  • Offer a unique value proposition that fills a gap for target users.
  • Optimise relentlessly – fix bugs, analyse data to improve conversions.
  • Drive high engagement with gamification features and rapid iteration.
  • Target niche audiences rather than competing with large established players.

While Facebook did make an attempt at social discovery dating, its execution was flawed. Dating app experts believe Facebook would likely have to acquire an existing niche app or rebuild its dating platform from scratch to have a chance at success in this sector.

The Final Word

While the future of Facebook Dating remains uncertain, its ambitions to disrupt the online dating space did not succeed. With privacy concerns, lack of innovation and poor execution, Facebook‘s product was not compelling enough to carve out a place for itself among the top players.

Its gradual "soft shutdown" is a reminder that even with Facebook‘s vast resources and user base, competing in a saturated market takes more than just a popular brand name. For now, Facebook users looking for love will have to look elsewhere.