Facebook, the fitness tracker: The social network buys Moves to see your activity
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Facebook just bought a popular app. Continuing the spending spree that started with messaging service WhatsApp and virtual reality headset makers Oculus VR, Facebook added Moves, a popular activity-tracking app for iOS and Android, to its portfolio.
Facebook didn’t say how much it paid for the app, but indicated it was far, far less than the $19 billion and $2 billion it paid for WhatsApp and Oculus, respectively. But what on Earth will Facebook do with a fitness app?
For now, the app will continue to operate independently of Facebook, much like Instagram does. In a Thursday blog post, the Moves team said “there are no plans” to hand over user data to Facebook. But let’s be honest: Facebook wants that information. Moves knows exactly where you go and how you get there. That’s incredibly valuable to a company like Facebook, which is currently using highly targeted advertising to make billions. Moves’ engineering team is also joining Facebook, possibly to bake some activity-tracking tech into the Facebook app.
The social network will reportedly use Moves initially to help people “take small steps toward more healthy habits and lifestyle,” according to the Wall Street Journal, but that’s not really how Moves works. It doesn’t encourage you to get in your daily exercise or make you log in to check your activity—the app functions as a sort-of fitness diary that you can examine for trends.
Moves is appealing because it’s super simple: Just let the app run in the background and it will count your footsteps, log your jogs, and even tell you how long you spend on public transit. The app seemed like an attractive acquisition target—a good fit for a wearables company like Jawbone or even Samsung. The WSJ reported that Moves has racked up millions of active users.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that his company is focused on creating (or acquiring) stand-alone apps that can become sustainable businesses. If the stress test he created for Messenger and Instagram—reach 100 million users and then start thinking about money-making opportunities—applies to Moves, then we might not see any major changes for a few years. But you never know: If 2014 has proved anything, it’s that Facebook is full of surprises.