Bumble (BMBL 2.79%) and Meta's (META) Facebook might initially seem like very different companies. Bumble's namesake product, which served 1.5 million paid users in its latest quarter is a female-oriented dating app that lets women make the first move. Facebook, the world's largest social network, connects 2.9 billion monthly active users (MAUs) to their coworkers, friends, and family each month.
But if we take a closer look, some similarities start to appear. Bumble's BFF feature for platonic friendships is gradually evolving into a social network. During last quarter's conference call, it teased the expansion of BFF into a "metaverse" for new user-created communities -- which sounds similar to Facebook's virtual and augmented reality plans for the metaverse market.
Meanwhile, Facebook launched Facebook Dating, a free dating feature for its social network in the U.S., over two years ago. But it hasn't meaningfully challenged Bumble or Match's (MTCH 2.50%) Tinder yet -- presumably because most people still don't associate online dating with Facebook.
These two companies certainly aren't direct competitors yet. But over the next few years, could Bumble evolve into a smaller, female-oriented version of Facebook and gain a foothold in the saturated social networking market?
How big is Bumble BFF?
Bumble doesn't disclose exactly how many people use BFF, but it's dropped a few hints over the past three quarters. Back in May, Bumble said the average time spent on BFF had increased 44% for women and 83% for men. It also said more than 90% of women who initiated contact on BFF in March had found at least one match. CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd said those metrics highlighted a "huge opportunity" for users who were seeking out "community and friendship through many life stages."
In August, the company said that 10% of Bumble's users were also using BFF as of the second quarter. In November, it reported BFF's MAUs had risen 45% year over year in the third quarter -- which outpaced the 20% year-over-year growth in paid users on Bumble's main app.
Bumble doesn't regularly disclose its combined number of free and paid MAUs, but its IPO filing revealed that its main app served 12.3 million MAUs as of last September. Based on all those numbers, we can estimate that BFF has roughly 1 million to 2 million MAUs.
However, that's a drop in the ocean compared to Facebook's 2.9 billion MAUs, Pinterest's 444 million MAUs, and Snap's 306 million daily active users (DAUs). Bumble also hasn't monetized BFF yet -- it's only vaguely hinted at ads, virtual goods, and cryptocurrency payments for the platform in the future.
Understanding BFF's growth potential
In May, Wolfe Herd said BFF's users were forming new communities for young professionals, parents, divorcees, women who were going through menopause, and other granular groups. She also said Bumble would relaunch BFF as a blockchain-powered privacy-oriented platform in the near future.
The company hasn't relaunched BFF yet. But during last quarter's conference call, Bumble president Tariq Shaukat discussed the possibility of launching branded avatars for other third-party virtual worlds and the introduction of cryptocurrency services for the platform.
In other words, Bumble doesn't aspire to expand BFF into a massive virtual reality world like Facebook's Horizon Worlds. Instead, it should remain a small, streamlined social network that locks users into Bumble's main app. In addition, Facebook has already reportedly sold about ten million Oculus Quest 2 headsets globally, and it could potentially tether a lot of those users to Horizon Worlds. That already gives it a big head start in the metaverse against Bumble BFF's estimated audience of one to two million users.
Why Bumble won't become the next Facebook
There might be room for a female-oriented social network in the crowded social media market. More than half of Facebook's U.S. users are female, and all the recent noise about the platform's hate speech, fake news, and privacy violations could drive more users to alternative platforms like BFF.
Unfortunately, BFF already faces some serious growing pains. A recent report at Input indicates the platform has been saturated by multilevel marketing (MLM) recruiters who pose as potential "friends" to gain new recruits. Bumble says the promotion of MLM programs on BFF is a violation of its policies, but it can be tough to weed out MLM recruiters.
Facebook has also suffered from MLM headaches before, but it's less of an issue because it's mainly a platform for a user's existing friends, coworkers, and family members. BFF, on the other hand, requires its users to reach out to strangers -- and fewer users could be willing to take that leap of faith if the platform is filled with MLM recruiters or scammers.
BFF's growth potential could also be hampered by its integration into Bumble's app, which has experienced a slowdown over the past year. If Bumble stops growing, its upcoming relaunch of BFF won't get much attention. It's also highly unlikely Bumble will ever grow as large as Meta in the future. Analysts expect Meta to generate more than 153 times as much revenue as Bumble this year, and its market cap of over $930 billion puts it in a completely different weight class as Bumble's market cap of $6.5 billion.
But Facebook also won't become the next Bumble
Bumble BFF probably won't evolve into a major social network or tech titan in the future. However, Facebook also probably won't become a major dating platform -- which will leave that niche market open for Bumble and Match.
So instead of focusing on Bumble's ability to expand its ecosystem beyond its core dating apps, investors should focus more on its ability to become the next Match -- which remains the $38 billion market cap gorilla to beat in the online dating market.