Facebook's New Feature Is No Tinder Killer

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Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) is no stranger to taking what's working for other apps and supersizing the feature for its much larger audience. Now it's targeting Match Group's (NASDAQ: MTCH) online dating juggernaut, Tinder.

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Facebook is testing a "meet up" feature, according to a New York Post story that was originally unearthed by Vice's Motherboard. Some users in Toronto and New Zealand are being presented with a notification, letting them know they have friends who may be interested in meeting up. Facebook users are then presented images of friends and asked if they would like to catch up. The process remains confidential, and the two participants are notified only if both have opted to meet up -- just like Tinder works.  

This isn't the first time Facebook will duplicate a feature that's working elsewhere. It won't be the last. However, it's not going to make much of a dent in Tinder parent Match Group. It probably won't make much of a difference on Facebook, either.

Meet of the matter

The flaw in Facebook's test of this Tinder-like feature is that it's limited to existing friends. Tinder's appeal -- and the draw of any online dating app, really -- is the ability to hook up with strangers. Following that lead would seem like a simple switch for Facebook. It could open up this feature to friends of friends, for example, instead of direct existing connections. Or it could identify local strangers with similar interests. 

Facebook has many ways it could use its depth of its data and its 2 billion users to be the mother of all love connections. The problem is that Facebook can't play that card. Facebook is the place where your family's watching. Facebook is where your coworkers hang out. Facebook is where you reveal a lot about yourself, probably more than you what would want a potential match to know out of the gate. 

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Simply put, there are limitations to Facebook. It can't take on fast-growing dating sites, just as it couldn't slap on a corporate layer and become LinkedIn. There's always a price to be paid for being the mass merchant of social interactions, and in this case it's spending its time flinging arrows for marketers instead of for cupids.  

Match Group knows Facebook's trick of cloning what works elsewhere. It runs dozens of dating websites, and it can push what's working on smaller platforms up to Tinder, as it recently did in improving its Tinder Gold premium offering by giving paying members access to a convenient list of everyone who has swiped right on their profiles.

Facebook's audience is substantially larger than Tinder's 50 million, but it's too big to go down any particular specialty path. Facebook can buy a rising dating app, but it can't be that platform. Match Group doesn't have anything to worry about.  

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Match Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.