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Ahead of its IPO, Facebook scoops up the Lightbox team to help fix mobile

Lightbox appYesterday Facebook announced its latest acqui-hire, photo-sharing site Lightbox. The deal comes shortly after Facebook folded SoLoMo app Glancee into its team, and of course after its $1 billion Instagram grab.

“We started Lightbox because we were excited about creating new services built primarily for mobile, especially for Android and HTML5 platforms, and we’re honored that millions of you have downloaded the Lightbox Photos app and shared your experienced with the Lightbox community,” the site’s blog reads, before announcing its acquisition by Facebook. “…Facebook is not acquiring the company of any of the user data hosted on Lightbox.com. In the coming weeks, we will be open sourcing portions o the code we’ve written for Lightbox and posting them to our Github repository.” So it can be assumed a Lightbox Jr. is in the works out there somewhere. The site is no longer taking new users. If you’d like to download your content, you have until June 15.

While Lightbox’s photo service might make you want to draw parallels to the Instagram acquisition, this most recent M&A activity has closer ties to Glancee – more than anything, it appears to be a way to take over the Lightbox team. Facebook doesn’t own the company, but it owns (or rather, now pays) the people that built the company, and it can be assumed it hopes they inject their photo and mobile expertise into its own very lacking service.

Mobile continues to be a very large, very ugly problem for Facebook. It’s been on the tip of every Facebook IPO naysayer’s tongue, and the company itself has acknowledged that it’s losing money given that most people are heading to the mobile app and Facebook hasn’t thoroughly infused ads into the platform.

Concerns about ad reach on mobile isn’t the only complaint the world has about Facebook’s smartphone app. Users (iPhone and Android alike) are overwhelmingly frustrated by the infinitely-loading screen, the buggy Timelines, the painful photo uploads, and the interminable wait times that come with using the app.

Facebook seems to be well aware that it is currently failing mobile, and it’s a big part of why it’s scooping up mobile-first/only companies like it’s going out of style. The new Google+ app has put a little unforeseen pressure on Facebook to get its mobile game together, and fast. The Lightbox acquisition was something of a last-minute grab to assure investors where Facebook’s mind is at: it’s on the future, and the future is mobile. If you aren’t an investor and their relationship with Facebook means little to you, that’s okay. As for concrete upgrades, prepare to see bigger photos with better load times, both of which will be a welcome relief to everyday users. 

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