Not everyone is immune to the big money charms of Facebook: the Verge is reporting today that Branch, a company specializing in content-specific discussions and link-sharing, is going to be absorbed into the social network for a cool $15 million. For that price, reports the post, Branch will bring its Potluck service to Facebook and get to work on launching “Facebook Conversations.”
Company CEO Josh Miller broke the news of the acquisition itself on his Facebook page, appropriately enough. There, he explained what he and his team in New York will be doing for Facebook—though, the specifics of just what shape Conversations will take is still on the vague side:
“We will be forming Facebook’s Conversations group, based in New York City, with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests. Their pitch to us was: ‘Build Branch at Facebook scale!’
Although the products we build will be reminiscent of Branch and Potluck, those services will live on outside of Facebook.”
So now we know that Facebook is hard at work at yet another amorphous sounding service, but we’re lacking really any details about what form that service will take or how it’ll work. From what I’ve read, Branch and Potluck were services that allowed users to share content with social groups without putting the onus on users to worry about getting responses or retweets. Essentially, the idea seems to be putting the spotlight on the content rather than the person sharing it.
The Verge post points out that Facebook is still concentrating on improving the way it disseminates “actual” news in its News Feed, so it’s entirely possible that Conversations will take this to the next level—I suppose news stories and links will get their own discussions spaces within the Facebook framework.
But I’m still wondering how Conversations will really differ from Facebook’s already established functions. My friends and I already talk about links that are shared on our Timelines and News Feeds as comment threads. If we don’t do that, we start new message threads through the private messager, keeping the discussion away from public consumption in the News Feed space. Do we really need a third option? And if that’s what’s coming, in what way will it bring something new to the table? I’m curious to find out.