Why Did Facebook Buy Snaptu?

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When Apple invented the App Store, it invented a whole new way of selling software – one so popular that other tech companies have rushed to build their own clones of the same idea.

Is Facebook among them? Possibly so, given the weekend’s news that it has signed a deal to buy UK/Israeli mobile technology company Snaptu.

What is Snaptu? In short, it’s apps for simple cellphones. It’s aimed at the millions of people who don’t have a smartphone, whose pocket device is a simpler, cheaper device built for texts and calls. Snaptu gives those phones apps all of their own, tailor-made to run on the lo-fi technology inside them.

Smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and the various Android alternatives might be popular where you are, but despite their apparent popularity, they still represent just a tiny fraction of the global cellphone market share. Facebook wants to reach people no matter what device they’re using. Earlier this year, Snaptu released something called Facebook For Feature Phones, which works on no less than 2,500 different devices. That’s a lot of potential new Facebook users.

The big question hanging over this acquisition is what will happen to all the other online services supported by Snaptu?

Right now, if you go to m.snaptu.com on your phone and install the software, you can use many services besides Facebook, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Picasa, and Flickr. If Snaptu becomes Facebook-owned technology, does that mean it will only display Facebook-owned content? (At the time of writing, we’d not heard back from either side with a comment. But they’re probably pretty busy this morning.)

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