By Joseph Walker
Facebook has acquired the team of Spool, whose apps let users save Internet articles and video viewable online or off.
Facebook has acquired the team behind San Francisco start-up Spool in its latest talent acquisition aimed at getting better performance from its mobile business.
Facebook will not acquire the company or its assets, a Facebook spokeswoman said. Spool makes free Google Android and Apple iOS apps for smartphones and tablets that let users save Internet articles and video that is viewable online or off, kind of like a DVR for the Internet. Spool said Saturday that those apps will be shut down. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In an emailed statement, Facebook said, “The Spool team has deep expertise in mobile software development and a passion for making content easy to consume. We’re excited for the team to join and accelerate their vision at Facebook.”
The acqui-hire is the latest in a string of recent acquisitions that have beefed up Facebook’s mobile expertise by hiring small teams of engineers with mobile expertise. Other recent deals include the $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, and mobile gift card company Karma.
In a blog post announcing the deal, Spool Chief Executive Avichal Garg wrote: “We started Spool to make content easy to consume on a mobile device. To accomplish this, we built some very sophisticated technology and developed a deep expertise in mobile software development.”
Spool declined to comment.
Facebook has two problems when it comes satisfying its 500 million mobile users. Facebook apps on Android and iOS give a far more limited experience compared to its website and aren’t particularly loved by its users. In addition, the company hasn’t yet figured out how to monetize its mobile apps in a big way, though The Wall Street Journal recently reported it planned to start targeting mobile ads based on the app usage of its users.
The Spool team, which has about six employees, will likely be able to help with the first issue. The company was co-founded by Garg, a former Google product manager, in 2010 under the premise that using the Internet on mobile devices is still pretty annoying, despite the explosion of Internet use on smartphones and tablets.
Mobile Web browsers tend to be slow and can take too long to load Web pages. Mobile connectivity also can still be spotty in certain areas, forcing consumers to bide their time with preloaded apps or–shudder the thought–dead-tree media or real-world interaction with other human beings.
Spool’s solution allows users to save, or “spool,” content from their desktop Web browsers and then have it transmitted to their mobile devices for later viewing. Or users can send an article from a mobile browsers and send it to Spool and have it reformatted in a way that’s easier to consume than on a mobile browser.
The apps were also designed to follow other Spool users and download what they are recommending — a social discovery feature that probably helped make the company attractive to Facebook. Though the feature never launched, the company was also working on technology that would automatically download content based on your preferences and prior browsing history.
Joseph Walker covers technology for FINS.com, The Wall Street Journal’s jobs and career website.
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