Facebook's rollout of "Graph Search," which connects users around common interests and mutual friends, has created uproar in the online dating space. Online dating CEO's, investors and entrepreneurs have become concerned that graph search would do what dating sites traditionally could not -- meaningfully connect singles through friends and common interests -- and therefore drive traffic away from dating sites. One of the search fields includes "relationship status," which enables you to specially search for "singles," thus making graph search a de facto dating feature.
The prospect of suddenly having to compete against Facebook is a scary thought for online dating sites, albeit a shortsighted view as to the impact of graph search. The concern is that singles will gravitate more and more towards Facebook for their online dating needs since Facebook already has superior data and profiles and now is offering enhanced friend and interest-based search and matching functionality for singles. They couldn't be more wrong.
Although there are likely to be clear winners and losers with Facebook's graph search, I believe this is the most exciting development in the online dating industry in many years. Given that only 1 in 5 singles visit a dating site each month, the biggest opportunity for growth for dating sites is to remove the stigma associated with using online dating sites, and thus expose the other 80% of singles to online dating, as the stigma associated with online dating sites is largely responsible for keeping 4 out of 5 singles away from dating sites.
Graph search seamlessly blends online dating functionality into the core Facebook experience. Facebook has, in essence, christened "social dating" and, as a result, a whole new audience of singles will be introduced to "online dating" in a compelling way. In other words, users will in fact be "online dating" without even realizing they have crossed the chasm -- and this is a very good thing for the online dating industry.
By bringing "singles" into graph search functionality, Facebook has actually done a huge favor for the entire online dating industry. It's only a matter of time before the online dating industry says a huge "thank you" to Facebook for removing the online dating "stigma," and thus enabling millions of more singles to enter the "online dating" market, which will ultimately expose many new millions of singles to destination dating sites.
These optimistic views are based on the premise that graph search is not a precursor to Facebook formally entering the online dating space.
Who Are The Winners in Graph Search?
Innovative "Social" focused dating sites, singles, and Facebook: With nearly 51% of singles not enjoying their experience while using online dating sites, it's clear that singles are craving an improved user experience. By integrating a user's friends and interests into the experience, "social" dating sites more closely resemble and leverage the real-world methods of how people meet, thus providing a superior experience for singles. "How you're connected" to a user via the social and interest graph is the future of dating sites, and online dating sites must offer this type of functionality to compete in the future.