The text and emoji-only messages go through a special Facebook Dating chat section, not Messenger, and land in the recipient’s Interested tab with no read receipts. If they reply, the chat moves to both people’s Conversations tab. From there they can decide to connect elsewhere online or meet up in person.
Sharp admits that “The moment you try to control the system you may have some unexpected behaviors occur there”. Facebook thought ahead so you can’t message photos (dick pics), you’re supposed to tie your message to a piece of their content (fewer generic pick-up lines), and you can’t follow up with people who don’t respond to you (stalking). But the company plans to stay vigilant in case unexpected forms of abuse or privacy issues emerge.
Sharp tells me “we don’t expect it to take months.” But why Colombia? He says it’s because much of South America has culturally accepted online dating, it has a sizeable population of 30 million monthly active Facebook users, and the social network can track data out of a few discrete metropolitan areas.
Starting today, users in Colombia will be able to create a Facebook Dating profile, but the company won’t start serving matches until there are enough sign ups
It also likely limits the prying eyes of journalists hunting for Facebook policy or privacy screw-ups, and eliminates the risk of disrupting its advertising in more lucrative markets like the U.S. It’s hard to forget that Facebook screwed up news consumption in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala and Cambodia last year by banishing all news publishers to a separate feed – effectively depriving the populations of important information. There are consequences to its experiments.
There are a lot of other ‘whys’ to how Facebook Dating was built. Sharp ran me through the undertook to turn Facebook Dating from a concept into a concrete product. Here I’ll run through its rules and features while explaining the philosophy behind them:
- Meaningful relationships not one-night-stands, because “meaningful” is Facebook’s new watchword as it enters the ‘Time Well Spent’ era, and the company has the deep biographical and interest data to find you matches you’ll want to wake up next to each day, not just go to bed with.
- Opt-in not automatic enrollment, because “not everyone who’s single wants to date, not everyone who wants to date wants to date online, and not everyone who dates online wants to date on Facebook” says Sharp in a moment of humility.
- Within Facebook not a new app, because it lowers the barrier to behavior that’s already hard enough for some people, and it can only achieve its mission if people actually use it.
- Friends-of-friends and strangers not friends, because many people’s biggest fear is “are my friends and family going to see this?” says Sharp. People who are already friends don’t need help meeting and may already know if they want to date each other.
- A new profile not your same one, because some people might want to share a different side of themselves or might not publicly disclose their true sexual orientation. The only info ported into Facebook Dating is your first name and age.
- Message and response not both people swiped right, because since Facebook wants you to be deliberate about who you show interest in, you have to send one message and hope to hear back. There’s no infinite right-swiping and then waiting to get matched or messaged. “It puts the power in the responder” Sharp says.
- Profiles and chat are separate not part of Facebook, because it doesn’t want to scare users about privacy slip-ups, and doesn’t want people to pollute the main Facebook experience soliciting dates