Facebook's had one expensive 2014. This Tuesday, the social networking behemoth shelled out $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR, a virtual reality goggle maker whose wares have yet to be released to the public. Of course, $2 billion is a bargain when compared to the $19 billion that Facebook paid for WhatsApp last month. While Facebook's purchase of Oculus has been likened to eBay buying Skype, the WhatsApp investment seems sensible, if not a bit pricey. But the buyout I'm most excited about?
Back in January, Facebook gobbled up link-sharing service Branch for an estimated $15 million. Chump change, when you think about it. If you're unfamiliar with Branch, it's a New York City-based company that "builds social products to empower conversation." Most recently, the company launched Potluck, a nifty little app designed to distill and disseminate the news. It works like this: you see a title, you swipe through three bite-size slides on the subject, then, if you want to learn more, Potluck links you to a third-party who addresses the topic in detail. As its name would suggest, Potluck brings lots of easily digestible content to the table that you can in turn share with friends inside the app.
According to Branch founder Josh Miller, Facebook has asked him to "build Branch at Facebook scale." What I think, or at least hope, this means is that my NewsFeed will be less cluttered with provocative headlines from the likes of Viral Nova and tickld.com memes in favor of quirky news articles and useful content from reputable news sources. And if I can share that content? Even better. In November, Miller put it this way: “Nobody wants to talk about news on Instagram. Nobody wants to learn about the government shutdown on Snapchat, because that’s where you’re trading selfies with your girlfriend or posting photos of the sunset.” If Miller and his team of link-sharing enthusiasts are successful, $15 million could be a very small price to pay to make Facebook the single best platform for people to talk about the news.