Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has announced that the social network is to get its own dating service.

Addressing software developers at the company's annual F8 conference, Mr Zuckerberg revealed that it would be built into the existing Facebook app and would be a "natural fit" for a network already specialising in connecting people online.

He said it would be designed to build "meaningful, long-term relationships", rather than "just for hook-ups", citing the "200 million people on Facebook that list themselves as single" as evidence of potential demand for the new feature.

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The company said in a statement: "People already use Facebook to meet new people, and we want to make that experience better.

"People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends."

Facebook's dating service will be opt-in and Mr Zuckerberg was keen to stress it had been built with privacy and security in mind from the start, with the company continuing to face worldwide scrutiny over the mass harvesting of personal data for use by Cambridge Analytica.

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The dating app Tinder is shown on an Apple iPhone in this photo illustration taken February 10, 2016
Image:Tinder has generated more than 20 billion matches

Mr Zuckerberg did not apologise for the scandal during the conference, only acknowledging that it had been an "intense year" so far and that the firm needs to "make sure that never happens again".

Despite the negative publicity endured by Facebook in recent weeks, shares in Match Group Inc, the owner of popular dating app Tinder, fell more than 18% in the wake of Tuesday's announcement.

Tinder – which already relies on user data from Facebook for people to create an account – is the most popular dating app in the world and has generated more than 20 billion matches since it launched in 2012.

It is currently in the process of simultaneously attempting to sue and takeover rival app Bumble.

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attends Bumble Presents: Empowering Connections at Fair Market on March 10, 2018 in Austin, Texas.
Image:Bumble is another popular dating app

Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook's service would launch "soon", with chief product officer Chris Cox telling a separate audience at the conference to expect more details "over the next few months".

Other new features announced at the conference in California included Watch Party, which allows Facebook users to watch videos together, and a way for people to clear their browsing history from the site.

Facebook also made the surprise announcement that its portable VR headset – Oculus Go – would go on sale in the US on Tuesday, priced $199 (£146).

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The social media firm hopes the product will make virtual reality technology more accessible by removing the need for additional hardware such as a phone or computer.

The Facebook Messenger app also received an update on Tuesday, gaining the ability to translate messages in real time to enable text conversations between people using different languages.

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