New York-based startup Branch is joining forces with Facebook, in a deal the latter company's spokesperson described as an aqui-hire but that looks more like a move to beef up its news feed.
Terms of the social network's latest acquisition, which was announced by Branch co-founder Josh Miller in a Facebook post Monday morning, have not been disclosed. The Verge pegged the deal at around $15 million.
"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," Miller wrote on Facebook. "Their pitch to us was: "Build Branch at Facebook scale!'"
Branch is known for its social discussion network, as well as Potluck, a recently launched iPhone app that serves up bite-sized bits of news that people can share and comment on. The company had received funding from the likes of SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, and Betaworks' John Borthwick.
By bolstering its news feed, Facebook could attract an even wider, more loyal audience--a potential boon for advertisers.
In many ways, Branch had been a rival to Facebook, since its goal was to move what Miller calls "the conversation" from Facebook to e-mail or the Web, where it can take on greater depth. Miller told Mashable last summer he liked to think of Branch as "a parent studio company that builds conversation products."
Branch was also aimed at taking on Twitter in the social discussion space. Miller admitted to Mashable that his initial pitch for the company--which was nurtured by The Obvious Corporation, helmed by Twitter co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone--was, "Twitter sucks for conversations." It appears as though Facebook may have felt the same way, and sensed an opportunity.