In 2013, I led a team to create FriendsPlus, a mobile app that was acquired (and killed) right at launch.
It turns out Facebook’s new dating app, announced last week, is very similar. Let’s see how Facebook talks about it:
Facebook Dating product manager Charmaine Hung tells me that “I have 2,000 Facebook friends. I’m not best friends with all 2,000 people, and there’s a good chance that one of that could be a really good match with me. I trust them, I appreciate them and I know we’re compatible. The only thing missing is knowing if we’re both interested in being more than just friends without the fear of rejection if you were to do this in real life.”
An overview of Friends+ as pitched to investors and later, acquisition partners. The application and technology platform were acquired pre-launch in Q4 2013 by Vietnam’s largest dating service, Noi.vn
Feature: Allowed you to propose a meetup right now based on the type of activity and person you would like to do and meet.
To be honest, the app was not going to be easy to launch and have traction grow on its own; this is why I ended up selling it to Noi.vn, Vietnam’s most popular dating service. Noi never launched the app either. I suspect it was hard to get internal support for something that did not work on traditional engagement metrics.
Going back to Facebook, its Dating team is going to face the same issues in defining success. After you set up crushes, what do you do? FriendsPlus would wait for that magic moment, but if the user does not take action right away with Facebook Dating, she will not go back into the app. It’s also not like you add new friends (I guess this rate declines with age) constantly and consistently over time and can be reminded to set new crushes.
I imagine the real-world usage as follows: I set some crushes. Some time later, as not all users will use the app at the same time, a crush of mine may also use Dating and set me as a crush. Facebook whisks us into an awkward chat:
Facebook: “You guys seem to be crushes. Go chat!” (at a random time of day in which the pair may or may not be busy)
You: “Hi” (anywhere from immediately to days later, have you seen how the modern generation replies to messages?)
Me and You: [Uhhh, what now?] (Hopefully, not a dick pic)
Potential awkward fail, at least based on how the app is described in the TechCrunch article.
The Facebooks and Googles of the world get easy media attention any time they release a new app. My impression is that most of these apps are tests from product teams that need to build out their resumes. These apps are not real businesses; they get 15 minutes (seriously, go search Techcrunch) of media attention and die out months later.
While this sounds like a humble brag, I claim this more about my failure in social products: I feel I hit my peak as a social innovator in 2012/2013, seeing pain points and constructing social utilities to solve them on a monthly basis. Because I was in Vietnam, these ideas died; I could not get investor support for anything without clear virality (“build it and they will come” and gamification are not strategies) and revenue models. (Cyworld and Mimo failed in significant part because unlike MySpace, Facebook, and Snapchat in the West, we had to grow users rapidly and make money.) Months or years later, I would see these same ideas I had get millions in funding in Silicon Valley, like Facebook Dating. They unsurprisingly all failed, though perhaps some like FriendsPlus in Vietnam eventually got acquired.
That is what I expect to happen here.