Facebook Dating launched in the U.S. this week. That’s a big deal in and of itself, but for the company as a whole, one detail is much more significant than it might seem at first swipe. The real news here is the addition of Instagram integration.
The U.S. is a massive market, of course, and happens to be where the most lucrative of Facebook’s over 2.38 billion users reside. But Facebook Dating is already available in 19 other countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay, and Vietnam. It’s set to arrive in Europe “by early 2020.”
So adding a twentieth country is largely iterative. Much more pivotal is that Facebook Dating has evolved to include Instagram. The main Facebook app is struggling to grow — hence why the company has shifted to reporting a combined monthly active user number instead (2.7 billion across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp). Meanwhile, Instagram is growing just fine. So going forward, Instagram will play a role in luring the 200 million users that list themselves as “Single” on Facebook. This is hugely significant to Facebook’s grand amalgamation plan. (It also makes much more sense than the apparent upcoming rebranding of Instagram and WhatsApp to “Instagram from Facebook” and “WhatsApp from Facebook.”)
The first Facebook and Instagram play
Facebook Dating doesn’t just let you link to your Instagram. Plenty of dating apps already let you do so on your profile. Facebook Dating is the first and only Facebook feature that really leverages Instagram. It lets you tap your Instagram posts, followers, and Stories.
Here’s Facebook’s pitch, straight from the second paragraph of the announcement:
We’re also giving people the ability to integrate their Instagram posts directly into their Facebook Dating profile and giving people the ability to add Instagram followers to their Secret Crush lists, in addition to Facebook friends. By the end of the year, we’ll make it possible to add Facebook and Instagram Stories to your Dating profile too.
This is a massive play. Facebook Dating isn’t just another way for the company to boost engagement and juice up its numbers. It’s the company’s first attempt at letting users combine their Facebook and Instagram profiles. And because it’s happening on a dating profile, where millions of people already link to their Instagram, it’s not forced.
Many will still hate this, shun the idea, and rightly not trust Facebook with their love life. But until its first scandal, Facebook Dating will be fine. After all, it’s following the same formula as every other successful Facebook endeavor: opt-in and rely on scale. Who can you really blame if you’re the one who chooses to use Facebook Dating?
And that’s what makes Facebook Dating the perfect first step to bringing Facebook and Instagram closer. It doesn’t impact any Facebook or Instagram user who doesn’t try Facebook Dating. Meanwhile, Facebook Dating will be quietly teaching millions about how Facebook and Instagram work together.
Next stop? Messaging.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.