I wrote about the amazing mobile app Moves — billed as the “activity diary for your life” — last year and praised it immensely. For me, it was then and remains today a sterling example of software that is not only unique to the mobile experience, but transcendent because it is inherently mobile. In my write-up, I even described it as magic.
Today it was announced that Moves has been acquired by Facebook. When I heard the news, my heart sank. From where I stood, Moves had a long and fruitful life ahead of it and I was really looking forward to seeing it evolve. Now, though the company promises that it will be maintained as a standalone app, it seems unlikely to see much further development.
This is just the latest of many, many high quality acquisitions by Facebook, and while I suppose I ought to praise their good taste, I find myself feeling disappointed every time it happens. It’s hard for me to describe why, and I need to take the time (more time than I have today) to hammer out my thoughts on this in a coherent way.
For now the best I can do is to say that Facebook’s acquisitions never seem to promise something truly new and wonderful. Acquisitions aren’t going to do that every single time, of course; most of them will be about maximizing shareholder value regardless of the larger implications. But I’d like to think that truly great companies are doing something more than just generating obscene profits (or even just obscene stock prices), and that once in a while, they will put together a deal that makes everyone think, “Wow, I can’t wait to see what comes of this because it seems like it can’t help but be great.”
That’s what I thought when Apple bought Lala.com, or Amazon acquired Audible, or even when Google acquired Nest. Those were deals that made a certain sense, and promised unique outcomes that wouldn’t have been possible for either party on their own. By contrast Facebook’s acquisitions all seem to be about dominating markets or monopolizing talent — craven if justifiable business motivations. Going all the way back to their history-making purchase of Instagram, I can’t think of a single instance of Facebook acquiring another company that made me more optimistic about how the world would be different going forward. Their purchase of Moves seems no different.