Looks like Facebook is on a tear over the past week. Sure, no one at Facebook can really talk about the stuff that goes on behind the scene at the social network, but over the past few days, they’ve been making some definite waves that seems to be surely affecting the way people view the service and potentially their stock price. First, it was Facebook bolstering its photo capability with a monumental acquisition of leading photo service Instagram for a whopping $1 billion. Then, Facebook announced perhaps a life-saving and historic event–promoting being an organ donor. And now, it’s news that Facebook is moving its check-in feature beyond the traditional sense and making it more about introducing you to new people. Just how does the company plan on making this happen? By acquiring proximity app service Glancee.
Considered one of the latest products that could have been a “star” at this year’s South by Southwest, Glancee emerged onto the scene with some enormous potential, but also within a crowded marketplace. A couple months ago, there were nearly a dozen different of these so-called proximity applications, from market leader Highlight to others like Sonar, Banjo, Intro, EchoEcho, and several others, Glancee is probably the first such application to see an exit. Available for both iPhone and Android devices, Glancee states that it “makes it fun and safe to discover people nearby who share friends and interests with you.” Perhaps it was Glancee’s direct integration with Facebook that caused it to be appealing for an acquisition, since Glancee intended to leverage Facebook data to help you find people of interest instead of just showing you who is around you–it’s giving you some additional relevancy in helping you grow your social network.
This past weekend’s announcement of the acquisition is probably welcome news for the company. Since being founded in 2010, the company has apparently amassed “thousands of users”, according to the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch is reporting that it is nowhere near the size of the industry leader Highlight. In fact, Highlight is rumored to be at least three times larger than Glancee. No details on the price for Glancee have been released nor has any word on how much the company received in funding prior to this acquisition. The only statement that Glancee has made thus far is on their website:
We started Glancee in 2010 with the goal of bringing together the best of your physical and digital worlds. We wanted to make it easy to discover the hidden connections around you, and to meet interesting people. Since then Glancee has connected thousands of people, empowering serendipity and pioneering social discovery. We are therefore very excited to announce that Facebook has acquired Glancee and that we have joined the team in Menlo Park to build great products for over 900 million Facebook users. We’ve had such a blast connecting people through Glancee, and we truly thank our users for being a part of the Glancee community.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook bought an application service that focused on the check-in phenomenon. But this, interestingly enough, is the second time that Facebook has bought the number two application in a particular industry. Their first check-in application was Gowalla, which was basically playing second string to leader Foursquare. Eventually, Gowalla didn’t seem to gain enough traction or ground against Foursquare and subsequently had to pivot, which they announced at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco in 2011. Weeks later, Facebook announces its acquisition of Gowalla as a means to bolster their timeline. And now, Facebook snatches up Glancee, the number two in the industry. But while some might joke that the number ones know better or just wouldn’t sell for the price that Facebook was offering, you can probably bet that Facebook has a good plan for these services.
A while ago, Facebook introduced the world to Facebook Places, its version of the check-in whereby users could check them and their Facebook friends into locations and have it be published on their wall/timeline. That seemed to be an utter failure, to which Facebook has yet to really come back from. The check-in has mostly been won by Foursquare, but after a while, there’s got to be some additional incentive for people to want to check-in. Foursquare offers up badges and some occasional promotions, but Facebook has definitely lagged in this department. But what Facebook has that Foursquare doesn’t is the enormous potential to add context into why you want to meet someone at a particular location. There is only a finite amount of data that would allow you to know who’s at a location when you check-in on Foursquare, but what you don’t get is information on why you want to meet them–do they have similar interests with you? Are they working at a company you want to be involved with? Mutual friends? With Glancee’s integration with Facebook, I’m sure that this will become an interesting experiment for the check-in. To put it another way, AllFacebook.com gives this explanation about the Glancee-Facebook marriage:
That’s because check-ins are not required on Glancee—a habit Facebookers just weren’t willing to form. Plus, the nature of the data Glancee scans differs in that it focuses on the people, and not the places, capturing the core of social networking. It’s the people, Sirs. Users want to track the people.
Facebook offers you the ability to find out who is near you and lets you discover new people through the Glancee integration. Using the social data available, Glancee will scour your neighborhood and/or locale to find other Facebook users and once they seek them out, they’ll filter them based on your interests and friends and if it’s a match, it’ll be displayed for you. If you so feel compelled, you can go to that venue, meet the person, and then add a check-in or maybe a new friend to your social graph. Either way, more information will be gleamed about your activity and provided to Facebook. Data FTW!
If you have a Glancee account, you are free to download your data before the deal gets finalized. It looks like Facebook is shutting down the current incarnation of Glancee, but will we see its technology rolled into the service soon? Time will only tell…at the very least, the deal seems to be an acqui-hire, but the smart money may be in the technology as well.