Photo: Facebook

Facebook debuted Facebook Dating in the U.S. on Thursday after offering it for less than a year in some other countries. The company is also finally integrating the dating service with Instagram.

Why it matters: Facebook has 2.4 billion users around the world and is hoping a dating service will keep them around longer.

Between the lines: American millennials — arguably the group most coveted by dating apps — have increasingly shifted their time to Instagram over Facebook’s flagship app, and many already use it organically to contact or get noticed by potential mates. In other words, it’s already millennial consumers' de facto online dating app.

Details: Instagram’s role in Facebook’s dating service will be limited for now to a “secret crush” feature and letting users link select photos from the app to their dating profiles (a feature rivals like Tinder and Bumble already offer).

  • Users can now declare a "secret crush" on Instagram followers as well as Facebook friends and be notified if there's a mutual match. That only works, of course, with followers and friends who are also signed up for Facebook’s dating product (and therefore have a Facebook account too).
  • Later this year, the company will add the ability for users to embed their Instagram and Facebook Stories into their profile.
  • Asked why the Instagram integration is so limited, product manager Nathan Sharp told Axios that the company is focused on creating a dating service for folks who want to find romantic relationships, adding that it has to take a global approach instead of being focused on one country.

Facebook is also hoping to get some points from users for safety-related features, such as a recently added ability to share the location of your date with close Facebook friends as a precaution.

  • If users choose to embed some of their Instagram photos into their dating profile, Facebook will hide their usernames to prevent other users from finding them on the photo-sharing app.
  • It also lets users block others and opt out of being matched with friends of friends, and says it has specially trained community support teams dedicated to its dating service.

What we don’t know: How Facebook suggests potential matches to its online daters.

  • All dating apps and websites use information provided by users, from their location to their likes and dislikes, to suggest potential matches. However, Facebook potentially has more user data at its disposal than anyone else because it's been accumulating it from its users, often for years.
  • Sharp told Axios that Facebook suggests and ranks potential matches based on mutualities, using data from a user's dating profile and Facebook account, but declined to provide more detail.
  • The company also declined to share data about how the product has been faring in countries where it's already available.

Our take: Tinder, Bumble, and others likely don't have to worry too much about Facebook's dating service. But Facebook still has 244 million monthly active users across its apps in the U.S. and Canada, some of whom are already using those services to find potential mates.

Go deeper: Facebook wants to be your matchmaker

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