With 4m downloads on iPhone and Android, activity-tracking app Moves is one of the more popular fitness apps for smartphones. Now Facebook has made it its latest in a string of significant acquisitions.
Developed by Finnish start-up ProtoGeo, the app runs in the background on users' phones, using location data to build up a profile of their activities throughout the day. Described as a "surprise hit" by Apple following its 2013 launch, it has been downloaded 4 million times.
ProtoGeo announced the news on its blog. "Today, we're delighted to announce that Facebook has acquired our company and the Moves app," explained the company.
"Since we launched Moves, we’ve been focused on running a simple and clean activity diary that millions of people have enjoyed using. Now, we’re joining Facebook’s talented team to work on building and improving their products and services with a shared mission of supporting simple, efficient tools for more than 1 billion people."
ProtoGeo added that Moves will "continue to operate as a standalone app" while stressing that there are no plans to "commingle data with Facebook".
That's a potentially sensitive topic: Moves tracks each user's walking, running and cycling activity, as well as the locations they have visited over the course of every day. Users who were comfortable with Moves storing that data may have concerns about Facebook owning it.
"For Facebook to really have a global business that can be more than just a fad, it is important for the company to branch out, to invest in apps and services that are not only complimentary but also help the business grow into different vertical market," says Gartner's Brian Blau.
"Moves fits right in line with Facebook's goal in this regard, to provide a different type of service which is focused on mobility and social. In keeping Moves as a separate app, Facebook can let the users continue to enjoy the app and improve it, and hopefully grow that app into a top line technology or product for the company."
Moves launched in January 2013 for iPhone, and had been downloaded 2.5m times from Apple's App Store by the time it launched for Android in September 2013. The app stood out from other fitness trackers because it didn't require an external gadget to track people's steps, unlike Fitbit and other rivals.
"We wanted to make a mainstream product for people who are not that into sports or the quantified self," ProtoGeo's designer and chief executive Sampo Karjalainen told The Guardian in September.
"That's also why we have kept the app very simple, clear and approachable, with that element of lifelogging – the complete story of your day – that makes for a different experience to the more fitness-oriented products."
Karjalainen, previously famous for co-founding the Habbo Hotel social network, started the company in January 2012, along with computational scientist Juho Pennanen and developer Jukka Partanen.
Facebook's decision to buy an activity-tracking app comes at an interesting time, with Apple expected to make fitness a key feature in its long-rumoured "iWatch" smart watch. Leaked details have also suggested that the company is working on an app called Healthbook, possibly to launch as part of its iOS 8 software later in 2014.
Meanwhile, Nike was recently forced to deny claims that it is shutting down the team working on its FuelBand activity tracker, amid separate rumours that it is a key partner for Apple's fitness plans.