Facebook's five most interesting acquisitions

From facial recognition to farming websites, Facebook loves a bit of retail therapy...

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 14 Nov 2013

Facebook’s large financial claw descended into Silicon Roundabout last week like a fairground teddy picker, looking for a new start-up to bring into its fold. It picked out code-checking whiz kids Monoidics.

The four-year-old London-based startup was bought for an undisclosed sum and its staff will be joining Facebook’s London office shortly. It’s thought the skills of Monoidics will be used to help Facebook weed out the bugs in its own apps. Good times: au revoir bug-town.

It's big news for the UK tech scene and even bigger news for Monoidics, but the latest acquisition probably won’t be so exciting at Facebook HQ. It does this kind of thing all of the time. Since its inception, the social network has absorbed 37 companies.

With that in mind we thought we’d take a closer look at some of the most interesting ones.

1.     Instagram

Probably the most famous of Facebook’s technology shopping trips, it purchased Instagram for $1bn back in April 2009. The purchase was put down to Facebook’s desire to increase its control over people’s photo sharing, as well as the precious data that comes with it. The mobile app also brought an element of hipster-cool to Zuckerberg’s network, which some would argue it had started to lose.

The $1bn valuation caused plenty of consternation and cries of another tech bubble about to burst. As it happened, the sale didn’t cause a Silicon Valley apocalypse, just a $1bn sized hole in Facebook’s pocket.

2. Lightbox.com

Interesting for avid followers of the London tech-scene – Lightbox.com was Facebook’s first London-based acquisition, pretty much exactly the same as Instagram, and purchased just a month later. The sale price of the significantly smaller application isn’t known but we’d guess it’s a smidgen less than $1bn.

3. FB.com

You would be excused for thinking that the biggest thing Facebook has in common with a farm is Zynga’s Farmville game, one of the most popular on the social network. BUT, in 2010, Facebook bought FB.com in order to take control of the FB.com domain. But what was it, we hear you ask? The American Farm Bureau Federation of course. It only cost Facebook $8.5m – small change.

4. Snaptu

Back in 2011, Facebook bought Israeli startup Snaptu for around $60m. The startup enables users with non-internet phones to access smartphone applications – yes, like Facebook’s.

It was deemed one of the social network’s first moves to really dominate mobile services. It seems a lot to pay to access the increasingly diminishing non-smartphone market, but hey – who are we to judge?

5. Face.com

Now before you jump to any conclusions, Facebook didn’t buy this company because it was half of its own name (although let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a surprise). Nope: Facebook went back to Israel and bought the facial recognition platform for $100m because it wants to recognize our faces. All of our faces.

In fact, Face.com and Facebook had been working together for two years before the purchase, but the sale brought the ground-breaking technology under Facebook’s control.  

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