The 8 Genius Acquisitions That Facebook Has Made To Gear It For World Domination
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the Mobile World Congress this week, much of what he spoke about focused on the bigger picture of his company's objectives.
"Our vision isn't to try to connect one seventh of the world," he said, "It's to try to connect everyone, and in order to do that, we need to form these partnerships because no one company can change the way that the Internet works by itself."
And form partnerships he did. As part of the Internet.org initiative, Samsung, Qualcomm, Ericsonn and others have joined Zuckerberg in trying to make the Internet more accessible than ever, for more people than ever.
While Zuckerberg does have other organizations in his corner, Facebook is well aware that it has to set the standard and its recent business decisions have shown it.
Facebook has been on a strategic tear of acquisitions lately, buying companies that can complement one another and increase Facebook's chance of accomplishing the goal it craves most: taking over the Internet.
Here are eight of the most important companies, which Facebook has acquired in an effort to reach that goal.
Branch ($15 Million)
One of Facebook's recent acquisitions, Branch was purchased by the social network in January of this year. Branch is generally described as two things: a "link-sharing" service and a "social discussion" company.
The acquisition of the New York-based startup could represent a potential move to stir a comeback for Facebook, particularly when it comes to online engagement.
While Facebook has more users than Twitter, the latter has become more of a place for minute-t0-minute use, with users not simply logging on to "check in" but also to join in conversation over trending topics.
Facebook recently introduced hashtags to its own social network, apparently trying to generate the same type of conversations that keep users on the site for more minutes at a time. Branch is touted as an acquisition to help reach that goal.
Branch's objective at Facebook? To help users "connect around their interests."
Face.com ($60 Million)
Seems like a match made in heaven, doesn't it? Face.com is like Facebook's other half, but the $60 million acquisition has more value to it than good puns.
It caught Mark Zuckerberg's eye by building technology that could recognize anyone's facial features. The facial recognition company made it easier for users to tag their friends in their pictures by automatically offering pop-up suggestions of who to tag once a photograph was uploaded.
As reporter Alexia Tsotsis noted at the time, Face represented good value for Facebook because of its potential to cause increased engagement on the social network.
With most pictures being uploaded on mobile apps, a company that made it easier for friends to share those photos with one another on their smartphones, thus driving more traffic, was always going to be a potential asset.
Snaptu ($60 Million)
When Facebook acquired London-based Snaptu in 2011, it might have been hard for many to understand why, especially with most reports describing the deal in the typical tech-jibberish that has a way of overcomplicating matters. Time.com's Giles Turnbull, though, was one of the few who made sense of it.
"What is Snaptu? In short, it’s apps for simple cellphones. It’s aimed at the millions of people who don’t have a smartphone, whose pocket device is a simpler, cheaper device built for texts and calls. Snaptu gives those phones apps all of their own, tailor-made to run on the lo-fi technology inside them."
Facebook is going places, all places, not just those where the iPhone and Android run the show. With Snaptu, Facebook acquired a team that was well-versed in bringing valuable, popular apps that are typical of iOS and Google Play stores and packing them into versions that can be used on cheaper phones.
As Facebook tries to grow even further in Africa, Asia and South America, having a function compatible with such phones is a great asset for the company.
Jibbigo (Undisclosed Amount)
When Facebook acquired Mobile Technologies, it had a global feel to it, like many of the things Facebook does these days.
Mobile Technologies is the maker of Jibbigo, an app that can translate text and voice into a number of desired languages, with or without Internet.
As it looks to increase its worldwide appeal, Facebook Director of Management Tom Stocky says Jibbigo's technology will be integrated into Facebook's products.
"Although more than a billion people around the world already use Facebook every month, we are always looking for ways to help connect the rest of the world as well," Stocky wrote in a status update. "Voice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web, and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution."
Parse ($90 Million)
For a company that has a reputation ubiquitous on the Internet -- You can't really cross any digital path without coming across Facebook, can you? One space where Facebook was pretty much absent was in development.
While Microsoft, Google and Apple all have their own operating systems and app stores, Facebook didn't have any say when it came to a developer either making its apps or deciding which platform to put the social network on.
That is, until the company purchased Parse, the mobile backend service. Parse essentially makes it easier to develop apps by taking more tasks, like establishing push notifications, off developers' hands.
With over 100,000 apps using its platform and the two companies creating new tools to make it even easier to launch apps, Parse is becoming a favorite of developers, and that's just what Facebook wanted.
Onavo ($150 Million)
Onavo is Facebook's third-largest acquisition and its second-biggest at the time. The Tel Aviv-based company helps users compress data and use less of it on their smartphones, while also allowing developers to track the performances of the apps they make.
TechCrunch's report highlighted two benefits of the deal for Facebook: 1) The social network gets to establish a physical base in the Middle East, an important asset for a company looking to build a worldwide presence, and 2) Onavo provides a tool for Facebook to help its appeal in less tech-savvy countries.
In layman's terms, Onavo has the power to help smartphones use less data, an app which could be most vital in areas where there is exactly that, less data.
As Facebook looks to bring the Internet to all places and to connect the world through its "Internet.org" initiative, assets like Onavo are bound to help its cause.
Instagram ($1 Billion)
When Instagram hit the iOS scene in 2010, it came hot off the blocks. The unique, photo-centric social network captured the fascination of most iPhone users and had everyone else jealous and eager to join in on the fun.
By the time Instagram did release a version for Android phones, Facebook already had plans to create its own photo-sharing app, a clear sign of recognition that "IG" was getting too much shine for Mark Zuckerberg's liking.
Instagram, though, gained one million new users in 24 hours on the day it dropped in app stores on Android phones. At that point, the new kid on the block was simply too hot to handle.
Facebook couldn't beat the photo-sharing app, so it had to join its team or, rather, make an offer substantial enough to make the opposite happen. One week and an offer of $1.01 billion later, Facebook acquired Instagram, gaining a valuable asset and conquering the photo-sharing space, once again.
WhatsApp ($16 Billion)
Now for the biggest, most recent acquisition along Facebook's blazing trail. The stats are surely well-known by now, as Facebook's buy-out of mobile messenger WhatsApp was nothing short of a blockbuster.
An offer of $16 billion (plus $3 billion in restricted stock for WhatsApp employees that will vest over four years) made the agreement the biggest Internet deal since 2001's Time Warner/AOL merger.
While many questioned the wisdom of the deal, noting that WhatsApp generated a measly amount of $20 million in revenue, Facebook is adamant that its acquisition of the company and its 450 million users have benefits beyond what the eye can see.
The deal gives Facebook control of the undisputed king of mobile messaging, while it gives the social network a pathway into developing countries where WhatsApp's simplistic interface is built to prosper.
For that reason, WhatsApp has stated that its main target from here on out is to reach one billion users, an accomplishment that would inevitably make the company worth what some have called a questionable investment.
All acquisition fees quoted from Crunchbase.
Top Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images