Facebook Acquisitions Provide Hints on Mobile Strategy
Facebook will likely make close to 20 acquisitions in 2011, up from 10 in 2010 (and one in 2009). To date, the pattern with Facebook acquisitions has been to hire the executive and/or development team in order to acquire their domain expertise, rather than to simply rebrand a service or new technology. Nevertheless, many of Facebook ’11 acquisitions provide some very interesting clues towards their future mobile direction and strategy.
Strobe Acquisition (Nov 10th, 2011): Platform for Mobile Apps Using HTML5
Strobe has developed a HTML5 (or web-based) platform for mobile application developement. Facebook currently supports application developement for iOS, Android, and the mobile version of their website. With the aquisition of Strobe, Facebook has aquired the tools to create a more complete and comprehrensive platform that can support device agnostic mobile applications.
Potential Implication: Simply building a stand-alone mobile application is not necessarily a true 'mobile strategy', however, building or acquiring a platform is. The inherent advantage of a HTML5 platform is that developers are not constrained to build multiple versions of their application for different platforms. The Strobe aquisition could enable Facebook to leverage cross-platorm application development, allow users to discover applications directly via Facebook's social channel, and encourage both users and developers to participate in the Facebook Credits payment system. Thus, a Facebook HTML5 platform could evolve to compete directly with Google’s Android Market and the App Store.
Rel8tion Acquisition (Jan 25th, 2011): Localized Mobile Advertising + Analytics
Rel8tion focuses on location and demographics-based ad targeting tools for mobile devices.
Potential Implication: Facebook currently has monetized mobile users through its LBS promotions system, Facebook Deals, which presents users coupons and discounts at local businesses when they 'check-in' through Places. With web advertising currently generating the lion's share of Facebook’s revenues, it is inevitable that mobile advertising will become an even more important revenue source going forwad. Facebook continues to entice users to expose more location-based details related to personal and workplace environments. This data, coupled with advancements in mobile location determination technologies, will likely be leveraged by Facebook to furher enhance location-based advertising opprtunities.
Digital Staircase Acquisition (Nov 9th 2011): Visual Editing Tools for Mobile Users
Allows users to edit photos & video and create professional-looking image effects on a mobile device. Digital Staircase has already introduced a number of premium photo/video applications for iOS that have seen traction in the App Store ecoystem such as SmartSplice, StereoCam and MovieCam. Facebook is likely to discontinue these applications for iOS and leverage the visual editing tools from the aquisition to create a stand-alone customized Facebook application.
Potential Implication: Expect a Facebook branded photo editing application for smartphones to materialize in the near future. With Facebook users uploading an estimated 250 million photos a day and over 350 million mobile users, an extremely large addressable market exists for this type of application.