Facebook picks up Hot Potato


Just days after Facebook rolled out Places, its variation on the Foursquare/Gowalla-popularized theme of location “check ins”, the social networking goliath is moving to strengthen its hand in real-time updates — location-based, and otherwise — by today purchasing startup Hot Potato.

According to the smaller firm, which didn’t disclose how much Facebook paid for it, “some of the features and thinking behind Hot Potato” are destined to make their way into Facebook’s offerings.

Hot Potato’s site and iPhone app enable users to post Facebook- and Twitter-like status updates. However, users put those updates into several discrete categories — enabling them to “check in” while watching TV, listening to music, attending an event, playing video games, or any other activity.

Users can also view activities by category, for instance, viewing the hottest activities under watching TV, and then seeing that three friends are watching “Family Guy.” Users can also receive awards for their activities, similar to Foursquare and other services.

“This wasn’t an easy decision, especially since we’ve built up a base of dedicated users,” Hot Potato Community Manager Vanessa Schneider said in a blog post. “If Hot Potato was going to sell to anyone, Facebook was the natural choice. Facebook is still small, moves fast, provides a great supportive environment for people to be entrepreneurial, and most importantly, Facebook builds great products. We’re looking forward to joining their team.”

As a result of the deal, Hot Potato said it would be officially winding down its independent operations in “about a month,” and that it plans to delete all of its accumulated user data.

“No user data or account information will be kept by Facebook,” Schneider wrote.

For Hot Potato users, though, some changes are coming right away. For starters, the company will cease accepting new registrations, and it said it plans to help existing users export their data from the site.

For Facebook, meanwhile, the social site gains new capabilities in organizing user activities, though it hasn’t said yet how it plans to integrate Hot Potato into its offerings.

[via Hot Potato blog]

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