Facebook acquires link sharing service Branch to create new ‘Conversations” feature

New York based startup Branch has been acquired by Facebook, for a rumored $15 million.

The Verge reports that the team behind Branch, and its sister service Potluck, were bought out by Facebook and will now be put to use in creating Facebook’s newest feature called ‘Conversations.’

Branch was a way for people to share links and start online conversations around those subjects with similarly interested people. While both Branch and Potluck will still operate outside Facebook, it’s hard to see how those services will survive, given that Facebook has acquired the team to build exactly that type of product for itself.

Branch CEO Josh Miller made the announcement on his Facebook page today:

After two years building Branch and Potluck, I am thrilled to announce that we will be continuing our mission at Facebook!

We will be forming Facebook’s Conversations group, based in New York City, with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests. Their pitch to us was: “Build Branch at Facebook scale!” 

Although the products we build will be reminiscent of Branch and Potluck, those services will live on outside of Facebook. A more thoughtful note and details to come soon but I am writing this haphazardly from a mountain in Japan (I was tipped that the story was going to leak while on vacation). 

In the meantime, a huge “thank you” to our investors. Especially, Jason Goldman, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, Ryan Freitas, John Borthwick, and Jonah Peretti, who all spent an extraordinary amount of time with us.

As you can see, there’s plenty of tech royalty in the lineup that had invested in Branch, so the app had some solid backing going into the sale. However, one questions how the arrangement is going to work, since Branch was designed to take online discussions out of social media and place them in a more contextual space where only the people most interested in the topic would get to share their views on it. With Groups and Pages, Facebook already has places where like-minded individuals can gather to talk about their common interests. 

It looks like the goal is to create more engaging, and meaningful conversations around news articles, which looks like it is going to be Facebook’s biggest priority in the new year, as it strives to become the premier news discovery engine.

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