Facebook is testing a new dating feature in its app, laying the ground for an enormous challenge for apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Bumble.
The development was spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, a computer scientist who last week identified that the company was developing a talent show feature for its app.
By reverse-engineering the code of Facebook’s most recent version of the app, Ms Wong was able to discover hidden features that hadn’t yet been turned on.
The format of the dating feature appears to be similar to other apps like Tinder, although it isn’t clear whether it will include a swipe interaction to indicate whether users like each others’ profiles.
Ms Wong says the app comes with a “Conversation Starter” functionality in which Facebook will help people figure out how to break the ice.
Because of Facebook’s existing user-base, the feature could see it immediately challenge existing dating apps such as Tinder, OkCupid and Bumble.
Shares in Match Group, the company behind Tinder and OkCupid, were down 1% in after-hours trading following the news.
Facebook is currently testing the dating feature in its app with Facebook employees, a process known as “dogfooding”.
“This product is for US Facebook employees who have opted-in to dogfooding Facebook’s new dating product,” one of Ms Wong’s screenshots says.
“The purpose for this dogfooding is to test the end-to-end product experience for bugs and confusing UI. This is not meant for dating your co-workers.”
Participants in the test are being encouraged to use dummy data, and Facebook warns users that its policies regarding harassment apply to those testing the app.
The company had said it was planning on including a dating feature in its app back in May, when CEO Mark Zuckerberg repeated the company’s focus on “meaningful relationships” at the company’s developer conference.
“This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships – not just for hookups,” the chief executive said, although it isn’t clear how Facebook intends to achieve this.