Facebook already beefing up Places; buys Hot Potato

Facebook acquired startup Hot Potato, which focuses on location-centric streaming conversations.

Facebook went shopping for some talent today and for $10 million in cash, picked up the team from Hot Potato in a move that clearly points to the growth and expansion of the days-old Places feature in Facebook.

Hot Potato, for those unfamiliar, launched in November as part of TechCrunch's Realtime CrunchUp event. The company's iPhone app allowed users to create in conversation streams around specific events, such as a concert, a sporting event or a street fair.

Think of it as tweeting "I can't believe he missed that kick" to the other fans in the football stadium - without a Twitter hashtag. Those other people then respond and suddenly, you're in the middle of a real-time, streaming conversation that's based on your location.

Turn that into a Facebook feature instead of an iPhone app and that community is suddenly 500 million strong. In a blog post announcing the acquisition today, "The Hot Potato Team" said that, if the company was going to be bought, Facebook was the natural choice.

And, of course, this means that Hot Potato will be shuttered. In the post, the team dropped the bomb:

We’ll soon be wrapping up operations at Hot Potato. We will no longer be accepting new user registrations, and we will be offering existing users a way to download their information from the site... In about a month, Hot Potato will close up shop and delete all user data. No user data or account information will be kept by Facebook. We will be sure to keep you posted on this process over the next few weeks.

I didn't have a Hot Potato account so I can't speak to the type of user data and account information Hot Potato collected - but I am glad they're not just handing it over to Facebook. Not that it really matters - Facebook probably already has all of that data and more from our own Facebook accounts.

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