Meta shuts down its experimental video speed-dating service, Sparked – TechCrunch

Meta is shutting down a video speed-dating service that it had tested for much of the past year, the company told users of the service in a recent email. Last April, the company formerly known as Facebook confirmed that it was testing a new dating service called Sparked, which was developed by its internal incubator, the team at NPE. Unlike modern dating apps where users swipe profiles to generate matches, Sparked’s premise was to bring the casualness associated with in-person speed dating to an online service.

With Sparked, daters go through a series of short “video dates” during a pre-planned event with other locals in their area. The team tested the service in select markets, including Chicago, and also hosts several “global” date nights throughout the year, as well as dedicated events for LGBTQ users or other demographics, such as certain age groups.

Image credits: Goal

Initially, Sparked users chatted in short four-minute video dates, which they could then follow up with a 10-minute date, if all went well. They could also choose to share their contact information with a match, such as their phone number, email, or Instagram handle.

Meta, at the time, described Sparked as “a small external beta test” designed to generate insight into how video dating might work.

However, Sparked last summer began experimenting with a different kind of online dating that didn’t include video chat: audio dating. The service hosted several “audio-only” date nights where users could chat with each other, but not appear on video. Not coincidentally, Facebook’s largest dating service, Facebook Dating, soon after launched a new feature called Audio Dates that similarly gave users a way to start an audio chat with their partner.

Now Sparked is closing shop. The company informed its testers via email that the service will officially shut down on January 20, 2022.

“We started building Sparked in late 2020 to help people find love through an experience rooted in kindness. Since then, thanks to your regular input and feedback, we have improved where we could, learned a lot, and made connections between people,” the email read. “Like many good ideas, some take off and others, like Sparked, must come to an end.”

The email seems to imply that Sparked is not among the “many good ideas” that are “taking off.” In other words, it found no traction.

Reached for comment, a Meta spokesperson had nothing more to add beyond what had already been shared in the email to Sparked users.

The company offers users a way to download their information from the Sparked website before the final closure. However, after January 20, all user accounts will be deleted.

It’s no surprise that Meta is shutting down this experiment. Few of the NPE team’s projects have found a permanent home on Meta as standalone apps, despite a plethora of testing that has included things like calling apps, meme creators, and even variations on popular social apps like TikTok, Twitter, and more. and Club house. Currently, only three NPE projects are still active on the US App Store: BARS, a TikTok-like app focused on rap music; Collab, a collaborative music creation app (also closing soon); and Tuned, an app for couples.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s broader dating efforts haven’t proven nearly as successful compared to the headlines. An analysis of Meta’s own Facebook Dating ads by The Verge last spring indicated that Facebook was struggling to convert its millions of users in various cities into Facebook Dating users, even though the feature is available directly on the Facebook page. Facebook’s own app.

And Meta can’t necessarily blame the pandemic for this. Major dating apps saw usage surges during the pandemic as people embraced virtual dating, which continued into 2021.

Facebook doesn’t publicly share figures for its Facebook Dating product, and it’s not possible to determine its traction in other ways, as it’s a built-in feature within Facebook.

In addition to not meeting the continuous investment standard, Sparked also doesn’t fit the NPE team’s new vision as an organization focused more on emerging markets, not just new social consumer experiences.

The group has set up offices in Lagos, Nigeria, and is staffing another in Asia. It also plans to look abroad for new ideas, including by making seed investments in small, entrepreneurial teams, it said recently.

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