In this segment of the MarketFoolery podcast, host Mac Greer is joined by Motley Fool analysts Andy Cross and Aaron Bush to talk about the oddly timed announcement that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) plans to launch an opt-in dating service to help people meet potential partners they aren't already connected to. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it will be designed to facilitate the formation of long-term relationships -- as opposed to a more hookup-focused operation like Tinder.
Shares of segment leader Match Inc. took a 20% dive on the news, but are the market's fears overdone? And how will people react to Facebook using their personal information to build those internal profiles, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on May 2, 2018.
Mac Greer: Facebook is getting into the online dating business. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the new service is meant to help people find "long-term relationships rather than hookups." The opt-in feature will match users with people they're not already connected to on the site. Let's talk about the response from Match, which owns dating sites Tinder, match.com, OkCupid and PlentyOfFish -- I'm not even sure what that is, PlentyOfFish. Shares of Match falling more than 20% on this Facebook news. Andy, what do you think?
Andy Cross: That's not surprising. Match is a $10 billion company, so when the biggest, baddest social network in the world comes knocking on your door, investors are going to get a little bit worried and say, "Hey, what's going on with the prospects of Match now?"
There are hundreds of millions of single people on Facebook. It's the most connected network out there. This is not a surprise. This is just an opportunity that Mark Zuckerberg is looking at. The timing is a little interesting, considering all of Facebook's privacy with connections has stirred up in the past few months. I mean, there's nothing more personal, really, than your romantic life. So, how Facebook users react to this from the trust perspective still remains to be seen.
But there's a huge opportunity for Facebook to make those connections. That's what they exist for. And certainly, Match is probably looking at this and saying, "Oh, that's interesting!" The Match CEO had some very interesting comments she mentioned on Twitter when she said, "We're flattered that Facebook is coming into our space and sees the global opportunity that we do as Tinder continues to skyrocket. We're surprised at the timing, given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory."
Aaron Bush: Burn!
Greer: Throwing shade.
Cross: Yeah, as you said, Mac. And that piece that you read from Zuckerberg, Mac, he does mention the whole concept of a hookup, which, Match may have looked at that and said, "We're not just a hookup site at Tinder."
Bush: Just, as a thought experiment, apart from digital advertising and the effect that had on media, has Facebook created any new product that fundamentally changed an industry? I can't really think of much. Maybe Marketplace, internationally, in some emerging markets. But apart from that, I don't think Facebook has had much success branching out of its advertising business and getting away from Stories and News Feeds. So, I'm a little bit skeptical.
I think they definitely have large numbers on their side, but how they frame it up is probably just going to be, this is the one way that Facebook will handle dating. When, if you look at something like Match, they have tons of brands, because different people search for different things in their dating sites. So, I don't know. I'm a little skeptical, but it's a big opportunity.
Cross: I also wonder if everyone will want to have all of that much data in their lives that tied into one platform. We tie a lot into Facebook, but this does seem to go that one extra little step.
Greer: Yeah, but this does seem like a more logical offshoot of what they're doing already. They're great at connecting people, so this seems like, this kind of makes sense, especially if they can find a way to do it. And it sounds like they're going to do it in a very different way than Match and Tinder.
On the other hand, we were talking before the show, I was asking colleagues, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being a positive force for good and one being the worst thing ever, where do you think Facebook nets out for established relationships, marriages, partnerships? And both of these people said three, more of a negative force. One said, it allows people to reconnect with old flames, and that leads to higher divorce, which, Facebook is cited in a lot of divorce filings. And the other person was talking about how it's a big distraction. If you're married and one person is really into Facebook and one's not, then it just consumes all your time. So, what do you think? Facebook as a force for relationship, good or evil?
Cross: I'll take the higher end of that. I'll say a six. I think it allows people to be connected more to their families in general, and that's probably a good thing. And the whole idea that Facebook is cited in different cases, there's, what, one and a half billion people who use Facebook, two billion people who use Facebook? That's a huge network, so --
Greer: You're questioning my stats. [laughs]
Cross: Yeah. Just, the law of averages will have people citing Facebook.
Greer: Fair point.
Bush: I don't know. I might go four. Three or four. Just because, I think people are sometimes over-reactive to seeing people communicate with others on Facebook, especially if you look at messages and stuff where it gets more personal. I don't know. It's definitely a mix.
Greer: I think I'm going to go four. I also think there's a lot of Facebook envy. I think we probably all know people who, they have to post a picture of their perfect meal and their perfect dog and their perfect picture, and that's just nauseating. Let's bring it down a notch, let's show life as it really happens -- me chasing after our rescue beagle who's doing awful things in the backyard, that's what I want to see on Facebook.
Cross: [laughs] That was me last night, chasing my Golden all around the neighborhood.
Greer: That's good! Put that on Facebook!
Cross: On Facebook, nobody wants to see that. Even on Facebook, no one cares.