Facebook has just closed a deal to hire the all the employees (except for one) from Android photosharing app developer Lightbox, which should reduce worries that mobile will be its downfall. The Lightbox Photos app developed by the 500 Startups company automatically created personal photo blogs from a user’s uploads. But now it will be shut down, has already been stripped from Google’s Play marketplace, and people have until June 15th to download their photos.
Along with the Instagram buy, the last-minute-before-IPO Lightbox hires will help assure investors that Facebook will do what it takes to win the very mobile-centric future of social networking. But the Lightbox talent acquisition still doesn’t illuminate how Facebook will make more money off of little screens.
Lightbox had taken a total of $1.2 million in funding from 500 Startups as well as Index Ventures, Accel Partners, SV Angel, and several angels. In a statement to TechCrunch regarding the talent acquisition, Facebook said “The Lightbox team has incredible experience developing innovative mobile products that people love. We look forward to welcoming this world-class team of engineers to Facebook.”
Facebook has been frequently criticized for the slowness of its mobile apps. This talent acquisition of engineers could help it speed things up.
Lightbox developed consumer Android mobile apps. It’s first app Lightbox Photos cloud-hosted the photos from your Android device and synced them to your Android. It was designed to replace your Android camera app. When we covered it in December, Sarah Perez called Lightbox a lazy man’s Tumblr.
One problem with Instagram was that its content was very siloed. Users could only engage with its photos through its apps or on other social networks. There was no mobile site or website where you could comment or Like Instagrams.
But Lightbox auto-generates full-featured photo blogs with their own vanity URLs from a user’s uploads, so your friends and followers could interact with your photos from any interface. This understanding of the need for wide-accessibility will serve Facebook well.
While this talent acquisition should bolster confidence in Facebook’s mobile product, it doesn’t answer the question of how its going to to turn mobile into a massive revenue stream. Those two go together, though. The better the mobile product, the more mobile ads Facebook can get away with.
Similar to Instagram, Lightbox wasn’t just a photosharing app, but also a community where people browsed each other’s mini-masterpieces. However, Facebook won’t be adding that community to its 500+ million mobile population. Just Lightbox’s talent is joining the big blue social network, not the tech or users.
Some loyal Lightbox are already expressing their dismay about the app shutting down. Facebook was smart offer the one-month data portability period. If it keeps up this rate of acquisitions and acqui-hires, it will need to be considerate to the independent user communities it’s displacing.
Here’s the full statements from Lightbox’s blog:
We started Lightbox because we were excited about creating new services built primarily for mobile, especially for the Android and HTML5 platforms, and we’re honored that millions of you have downloaded the Lightbox Photos app and shared your experiences with the Lightbox community.
Today, we’re happy to announce that the Lightbox team is joining Facebook, where we’ll have the opportunity to build amazing products for Facebook’s 500+ million mobile users.
Facebook is not acquiring the company or any of the user data hosted on Lightbox.com. In the coming weeks, we will be open sourcing portions of the code we’ve written for Lightbox and posting them to our Github repository.
We’d like to thank the Lightbox community, our investors, and our families for supporting us during this journey.
Thai Tran & Nilesh Patel