Facebook this week acquired a startup called Lightbox. It was an “acqui-hire” -- they did it for the seven-member staff. The product will be killed.
Lightbox is -- was -- a photo-sharing app. Users have until June 15th to get their pictures off the servers before they’re deleted.
Facebook’s Lightbox move comes only five weeks after they paid a billion dollars for Instagram, another photo-sharing service.
Based on these acquisition, it’s a safe bet that Facebook's mobile direction is toward picture-heavy, design-centric interfaces that would make Facebook really excel at the core usage -- uploading and viewing camera phone pictures.
The emphasis on pictures is so urgent that Facebook is rushing out this week (before the Friday IPO) an update that boosts picture size, but essentially under the existing design.
Expect, however, big-as-possible pictures with a super update later this year or early next. This would bring Facebook up to par with the likes of Path, Instagram and, suddenly, even rival Google+ with picture-heavy design.
The new Google+ iOS app, announced this week, is very much in line with where mobile social apps are going, and where Facebook is sure to go.
The main Google+ mobile app stream view is almost entirely about pictures, with just a few words -- fewer than possible even with Twitter’s 140-character limit -- overlaid on top of the picture. To read the full post, you have to tap on the picture to drill down.
The new Google+ iOS app is better than the existing Facebook app, and vastly superior to the old Google+ app. However, it’s still inadequate.
For example, you can post, but you can’t edit what you’ve already posted. Landscape mode is strictly for posting, not for viewing the stream or using any of the other features. Worst of all, there is no iPad version. iPad users are expected to just use the iPhone version at double size.
Facebook’s IPO will raise a lot of capital. But perhaps even more valuable is that IPO process has clarified for Facebook what it must do: Fix its broken approach to mobile by making the phone and tablet experience compelling and hyper-visual, and a major source of revenue.
Success or failure in mobile will determine whether Facebook becomes the new Apple -- or the new MySpace.