Out of the last five startups that Facebook has bought, four of them have had something to do with sharing information in a social news feed interface or sharing location data, if not both. All of the sale prices have been relatively low, too, with the acquisitions largely intended to bring in talented developers. So it makes sense that Facebook may be buying Hot Potato, a startup that lets you create and share a stream of information about events, and anything else.
The acquisition is close to finalized, according to TechCrunch, and like Facebook’s other purchases, the main point may just be to scoop up talented people who have generally relevant product and engineering experience. The company has raised $1.4 million in funding from well-known angels, with the price being somewhere in the $10 million to $15 million range, according to MediaMemo.
But there are a few areas where the Hot Potato team, headed by veteran product leader Jake Schaffer, would be the most relevant. Facebook is “supposedly looking to bulk up the projects under Facebook Director of Product Blake Ross, and on the mobile side of things,” TechCunch says. “This Hot Potato deal could fulfill either of those — or both.”
Location, a long-tested feature that, one way or another, would involve people sharing their locations into the news feed — probably from their phones — then talking about what they’re doing. That seems relevant to Hot Potato.
Another area is Facebook Questions, a product currently in private beta, that Ross has been working on directly. It lets users ask and answer questions in a threaded-comments format, somewhat like Yahoo Answers or Quora. Questions hasn’t fully launched yet, and it’s possible that the Hot Potato team could end up here.
Of course, Facebook’s news feed has been a key part of the site for years, the company has more experience designing (and redesigning) it at scale than anyone else in the world, and maybe it just wants more help here.
Most of the other startups that Facebook has bought recently have somehow been working on social sharing products. FriendFeed, which Facebook bought almost a year ago, had its own social activity stream service. Nextstop, acquired earlier this month, let travelers share their experiences with each other. ShareGrove, bought in May, focused on private conservations. The other two companies are less relevant: Octazen made an effective contact importer for social sites; Divvyshot made online photo products.
Hot Potato might go the way of FriendFeed, whose employees are now working in a variety of areas across the company, or it might emerge with a soon-to-be-launched Facebook product.