All is fair in electronic love and dating – or is it? The battle for hearts and minds of couples seeking their perfect match online has taken a new turn.
If you're a flirty mobile warrior Tindering on the brink or Bumbling from one swipe to the next be aware there's another game in town as Facebook muscles in to place its own tanks on the lawn.
As online dating becomes the virtual norm, some experts suggest half of all British couples will meet that way come the end of the decade and Facebook's gradual arrival on the dating scene, launched progressively in the Americas and Southeast Asia, looks set to shake up the market.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said last month he saw the company as moving towards the forefront of online dating having promised at the outset a service "for building real long-term relationships."
But rivals are not quaking in their boots just yet, despite the size of the social media giant's global footprint with more than 2 billion monthly active users some of whose data it now could leverage for romantic purposes.
"Facebook (Dating) has been going in certain countries for more than a year now and, for the moment, we've seen nothing change in terms of market share," said Didier Rappaport, founder and managing director of popular French dating app Happn – motto, "crushes don't fall from the sky."
Contacted by AFP, Facebook was not able to say exactly when it would launch its dating variant in Europe. Early 2020 had been the mooted target but on the eve of Valentine's Day, this Friday, its rivals were still waiting with bated breath to see what effect such a storied – and free – competitor may have.
"From social networks to dating sites is just a step which does not require enormous technological investment," observed Julien Pillot, a researcher and lecturer at leading French business school Inseec.
Pillot said Facebook has "copied everything which worked well on other applications and added two or three functionalities. What interests them is getting users to link in the sharing of private content."
Rappaport said a fundamental issue is whether social networks are a good fit for dating.
"Are social networks and meeting up a match? In my view, no, as what marks out a social network is the sharing of information – whereas dating moves into the intimate sphere," he said.
A December opinion poll of 21,000 Americans by Piplsay showed only 23% of responders would happily let Facebook securely store their personal data on its dating platform.
Clementine Lalande, the co-founder of the French dating app Once, which only allows a user to select one profile a day, notes that "the big problem with generalist applications is you end up with a mass of users who don't share the same interest communities."