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Why the Glancee acquisition means more for Facebook than Instagram

Glancee over instagramWhen I first heard the news that “Glancee is joining Facebook,” I was immediately interested.

When I first moved to Portland a few months back, I downloaded the app, hopeful to see if it could help me find any connections in a new city. After using the service for a few weeks and checking out the alternatives like Highlight, I was convinced that Glancee was the superior platform. I never did have any luck meeting relevant connections through the app, though (to this day, I still find that Craigslist is the most effective tool in a new city).

Regardless, I still thought that if Glancee was able to gain some momentum and a larger user-base, it could be an awesome tool; the possibilities would be endless if it had as many users as something like say, Facebook. How many times have you been on the bus or in a room with a bunch of people that you don’t know and been curious about who they all are, what they do, and how they ended up in the same place as you at the same time? Maybe you were too shy to strike up a conversation or maybe you just didn’t have the time. Either way, we’ve all wished there were an easier way to find out more about the people around us.

And then it hit me: Glancee is a cool idea and it looks pretty, but why doesn’t Facebook just implement a feature like this? They already have all of the users!

After a few months and an undisclosed amount of money later, that’s just what they did. Well, not quite yet, but they did take the first step in doing so by acquiring Glancee.

After all of the hype around “People Discovery” apps at SXSW earlier this year, you would think people would be excited and talking about this a lot more than they are, especially with all of the talk surrounding Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. Maybe it’s the lack of a big price tag or name recognition that just doesn’t have people excited. Or perhaps it’s that the Glancee grab has talent acquisition written all over it. I’m guessing a bit of both. People just don’t know what Glancee is and without a big price tag surrounding the deal, it doesn’t seem important at all.

However, when I look at the two acquisitions, I see far more possibilities in Glancee. What does Instgram bring to the table for Facebook? A larger user base? They already have that. Dominance in the photo sharing world? They already have that, too. Some nice photo editing features in a mobile package? Sure, that’ll be pretty cool, but definitely not game changing. We can already take and edit photos on our mobile phones and then quickly upload them to Facebook, now the process is just going to be consolidated.

But Glancee brings an entirely new set of technology to Facebook and I can’t wait to see what they do with the new acquired talent and technology. I’m hopeful that with this acquisition, one day I will be able to open up the Facebook app and see everyone near me. If I have a problem that requires more than a simple Google search, I’ll be able to hop on Facebook and search for someone with the exact expertise that I’m looking for and reach out to him or her for possible answers. Like they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

And let’s be honest: this type of feature could be the ultimate ice-breaker. Say you want to approach someone in your near vicinity but aren’t sure how. Open up Facebook and there’s the profile. Age, interests, job, anything you would need to know to help you get a conversation started – or if the results aren’t to your liking, bail altogether. The possibilities are absolutely endless. Robert Scoble broke it down pretty well back in February when he looked at what social ambient apps are capable of. And if they could harness the social graph of Facebook, you can only image their potential.

Instagram might seem like the big deal right now while also generating massive amounts of buzz just before Facebook’s huge IPO, but I’d argue it’s the Glancee acqusition that will ultimately keep the company ahead of the social–mobile crowd. Just wait, Facebook is nowhere near done changing the way we live our lives and this move is one giant step in the right direction.