Rumors are swirling that Facebook’s looking to purchase location-aware social net Loopt. It makes perfect sense, given the sudden arrival recently of Google’s Buzz mobile, which is location-aware from the get-go. Facebook’s playing catch-up.
According to TechCrunch Facebook is busy doing due diligence on the potential deal, indicating that the idea is in its very early stages. And at such a point in deals like this, before negotiations have really kicked off, it’s usual for everything to be shrouded in secrecy. Hence Loopt refused to comment, and Facebook simply trotted out the party line “we don’t comment on rumor and speculation.”
But the rumor is apparently based on sound information. And from this we can infer that Facebook is at least very interested in acquiring Loopt, or perhaps a location-based system like it (because we don’t know what other due diligence Facebook’s planning team is also performing.)
The reasons are obvious: Location-aware services of all kinds are an extremely hot topic. That’s partly because it’s a social trend, paralleling the rise of social networking itself, and partly enabled by the explosion in smartphones which carry GPS systems. You only have to look at Foursquare’s recent big-media partnerships, and Twitter’s fresh location-enabled Tweet system to see this effect. And, of course, Google’s new and controversy-beset social network experiment Buzz, which allows Foursquare-like “check-ins” to particular locations in its mobile version. Location-aware systems are a valuable tool masquerading as fun games for users to play, simply because they allow a whole new class of location-sensitive advertising to be presented to users, bringing in fresh revenue to the company that’s delivering the location-based service.
And that’s why Facebook is keen to get involved. It’s seeing huge challenges to its success as the finger on the social pulse of the world from the Twitter-Google tie-up, as well as backlash to its recent privacy changes, and it’s obviously keen to not fall behind the competition like Foursquare and Gowalla. We have no idea how Loopt would fold into Facebook’s social networking system, should a deal go ahead, but we can speculate it would be connected with Facebook’s status updating system, and possibly even tied into Facebook Connect.