Facebook knows that sometimes the best relationships start off as friendships. It's built a new tool to help ignite those type of romances.
The social network said Tuesday it's introducing a new feature for Facebook Dating that lets users (in certain countries, for now) select up to nine Facebook friends they're interested in romantically. Your friends will only learn that you have a crush on them if they also use Facebook Dating and add your name to their "Secret Crush" list. Once that happens, you and your friend will get a notification that it's a match.
The company's executives made the announcement Tuesday duringin San Jose, California.
Taking on dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, Facebook first announced it was working on a dating feature within the social network's main app at last year's F8. The move could eventually give Facebook a way to make money outside of ad dollars while increasing the amount of time people spend on the app.
The company first launched Facebook Dating inbefore rolling it out to Thailand, Canada, . Facebook said Tuesday it's expanding its dating service to 14 new countries: Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname. Facebook plans to roll out its dating service in the US by the end of this year.
Users who opt into the service create a separate profile for dating and are shown suggested people based on their interests, preferences and activities on Facebook. Unlike other dating apps, there's no swiping left or right to express your interest. Instead, you just tap "interested" or "pass" on the dating profiles you receive.
Facebook designed its dating service to help people find relationships -- not just hookups. Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, said in an interview that some users have already gotten engaged or entered official relationships through the dating service. The company has also seen a diverse group of people create dating profiles, including those who are gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual.
The US, Simo said, is a "highly competitive market" for dating apps.
"We really want to make sure that the product is really answering all of the needs people have before rolling it out to the US," she said. "It will come, but just not right away."
Finding new friends
Facebook doesn't just want to help you find love: It's also trying to make it easier to find new friends.
The social network is testing a new feature called "Meet New Friends" that surfaces recommendations for new friends based on where you live, work, what college you attended or groups you've joined.
Dating app Bumble also has a version for meeting friends, but Facebook has an advantage since it already knows some of your interests because of the groups you've joined and what's on your profile.
Facebook is currently testing the friend-finding feature in Vietnam and Colombia, but said it's rolling it out to other countries soon.
Users who opt into the friend feature by clicking on a link in their News Feed will be able to narrow down suggestions for friends by selecting certain interests. For example, you can let the social network know you're not interested in making friends from work by switching that option off.
Facebook will then ask you what you're interested in doing with friends. Activities include grabbing coffee, exploring the city and playing games. After you fill out that information, Facebook will show you a list of potential friends and what groups and interests you have in common. You can then send a message to that person through their profile and meet up in real life.
The announcement comes on the same day that Facebook said it's rolling out a tab for events that includes a map of nearby happenings and recommendations for the top activities to do in cities worldwide.