Facebook has acquired Wit.ai, a Y Combinator-backed speech recognition startup founded 18 months ago.

The company provides an API for building voice-activated interfaces and already has over 6,000 developers on its platform.  

While building speech recognition and voice control is normally an extremely complicated technical process, Wit.ai allows developers build this capability into their products by simply adding a few short lines of code.

"Facebook's mission is to connect everyone and build amazing experiences for the over 1.3 billion people on the platform--technology that understands natural language is a big part of that, and we think we can help," the company announced in a blog post.

Despite its acquisition, Wit.ai says its platform will remain open and free for everyone. It is likely that Facebook will leverage Wit.ai's services to draw in new developers. Facebook provides developers with resources and help building apps on its platform in the hopes that these developers will one day turn around and pay Facebook for advertising.

Wit.ai's technology could also become integrated with Facebook itself. The company could integrate voice control into Facebook's native app or add a voice-to-text input for Messenger, for example. 

In an October blog post announcing Wit.ai's $3 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz, co-founder and CEO Alex Lebrun wrote that he hoped Wit.ai's open, distributed, community-based network of developers could help build "the Github, the Wikipedia, the Bitcoin of natural language."  

Lebrun said that he wants his company to be the go-to platform for developers looking to build messenger-based and audio-first apps for next generation wearables and smart devices.

Read more about the announcement on Wit.ai.

--This story first appeared on Business Insider.

Published on: Jan 6, 2015