Facebook Acquires Face.com - Recognize This!

By Peter Bernstein June 18, 2012

The late Steve Jobs was a control freak. And if you have read his biography, you know this compulsion extended to every aspect of his life, most importantly to having Apple control the hardware, software and underlying technologies that went into their products and services. 

Lately, we’ve seen more and more companies emulate the Apple model. This includes Microsoft deciding that in the post-PC era it needs to be offering tablet computers to help goose the future of Windows and drive customers to the Microsoft apps store. 

If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t read the Jobs bio, he certainly seems to have drunken the Kool-Aid.  How else to explain his pre-IPO purchase of Instagram and now the acquisition of facial recognition platform creator, Face.com?

The news came via a blog from Face.com CEO Gil Hirsch (Facebook as of this writing has yet to say anything) confirming rumors that had been floating around for a few weeks. Under the title, “Awesome News – Facebook Acquires Face.com ,” he stated the following:

  • We love building products, and like our friends at Facebook, we think that mobile is a critical part of people’s lives as they both create and consume content, and share content with their social graph. By working with Facebook directly, and joining their team, we’ll have more opportunities to build amazing products that will be employed by consumers – that’s all we’ve ever wanted to do. :)
  • Now, lots of developers use Face.com technology to power various apps and make wonderful products. We love you guys, and the plan is to continue to support our developer community. If there are new developments you can expect to hear from us here, on the developer blog, and through our developer newsletter.
  • Thank you to all of our supporters, our amazing dev community, to our employees and to our friends and family who have seen us through many long days and longer nights. The next steps are going to be exciting for all of us.

You have to love a well-positioned goodbye from a soon to be multi-millionaire, especially since this is not being couched as “it’s been nice knowing you!” 

The news also breaks as other rumors are swirling that Facebook is poised to buy mobile/PC browser company Opera and is busy hiring ex-Apple hardware engineers to work on a Facebook smartphone. 

Let’s face it

Given all of the concerns about Facebook’s future in a mobile world, the Face.com acquisition makes sense. Point and scan of people for not just tagging photos but a host of other interesting and/or creepy apps is going to be a huge part of the future of personal devices. Not having organically produced a facial recognition platform, Facebook needed to take the plunge and hold the technology tightly.

For those unfamiliar, Face.com’s secret sauce is its facial recognition platform. It offers  three Facebook applications:

  • Photo Finder:  for discovering photos of you and friends that are untagged
  • Photo Tagger:  which groups faces in an album, and allows bulk-tagging of friends
  • Celebrityfindr: scans Twitter for celebrity photos and compares them  against a database of famous actors and actresses using face recognition software from Face.com

It also offers a free, REST API to allow third-party developers to create their own original apps and services. This maybe the best part of the deal since the API will enable Facebook to better engage the various segments of the mobile app developer community going forward.

How important is this?

Aside from the obvious that Facebook seemed to be a bit of a misnomer in an age of facial recognition, and that you have to like them getting a related URL now that domain names are expanding (Facebook interestingly did not participate in the recent ICANN gTLD applications process), this is very important. Getting stickiness for Facebook in a world where mobile devices are becoming the predominant ones of use globally is critical for everyone. With adds being a problematic challenge on such devices, apps are where it is at and photos are the path to sociality. 

While not precisely a case of, “if you can’t beat them join them,” whether it was Face.com or another facial recognition provider, Facebook needed to make a move. This one, given the familiarity the companies have with each other, was basically a no-brainer.  

Edited by Braden Becker
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