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Facebook Dating service launches in US with focus on safe online matchmaking

Facebook Dating
(Image credit: Facebook)

With so many online matchmaking options available, finding the best dating site for your needs can sometimes seem like as big of a challenge as finding a soulmate.

Facebook is hoping to simplify things, launching its free Facebook Dating service in the US, roughly a year after it introduced the feature in 19 other countries around the world.

Available to users aged 18 and over, Facebook Dating will be integrated into the main Facebook app, though you'll have to set up a separate profile to start using it.

The site will pull over your name and age from your main profile to get you started with Dating, but beyond that it's down to you to customize what photos and information you share – and with whom. 

As with many aspects of Facebook, you can select whether your dating profile can be viewed by only friends, friends of friends, or everyone. And like many dating sites, you can also set preferences to help you find the right match, starting with age but also including distance, religion and height.

How is Facebook Dating different?

That's largely where the similarities between Facebook Dating and many big-name dating apps ends.

Unlike Tinder and its millions of clones, for example, Facebook Dating won't utilise a 'swipe to like' mechanism. Instead, you simply 'Like' a person's profile or leave a comment on a particular aspect of it, such as a photo.

If you're not feeling like you've been struck by Cupid's digital arrow, you can tap the 'Not Interested' button, but there's also a 'Second Look' option if you accidentally pass on someone or want to give them further consideration.

Safety is being billed as another one of the key features of Facebook Dating.

'Share Your Plans' is a built-in feature that lets you share your live location with friends or family when you're on a date. This is one of the most common online dating safety tips, but most of the other service we've tested don't integrate it directly into their app or website, instead relying on you to use a third-party location-sharing tool like Apple's 'Find My Friends'.

Facebook dating is also free. While there are plenty of free dating apps out there, the more comprehensive ones tend to come with a subscription fee to unlock useful features. 

But it's Facebook, there must be a catch?

Another huge difference is that Facebook Dating only allows in-app text messaging, in a bid to ensure users don't receive the kinds of unwanted photos and videos that can tarnish their experience of online dating.

"We know (these) can really ruin peoples' dating experiences. So we want to make sure that you can build trust with someone before, of course, moving into your chat service of choice afterward," Charmaine Hung, a product manager at Facebook Dating, told CNN Business.

This is undoubtedly a good thing, but less obviously appealing is the 'Secret Crush' feature, which lets users list up to nine of their Facebook friends (or Instagram followers) that they have a crush on. 

If the person lists them back, they get matched. It sounds harmless enough, but some people may be understandably wary of gifting Facebook such highly personal information in the wake of its recent data scandals.

Following on from Facebook Dating's launch in the US, the company says it plans to offer the service to European users in 2020.