Facebook has confirmed to us this morning that it did indeed acquire the Baltmore-based software firm WhoGlue earlier this month. WhoGlue builds social networking software for membership organizations (like college alumni networks, for example) and apparently had the fortuity to file a patent on something called “Distributed personal relationship information management system and methods” in 2001, three years before Facebook existed.
The two went to court over the patent in 2009 and the case ended in a “very positive way“ for WhoGlue in March 2010. According to WhoGlue founder Jason D. Hardebeck, the ongoing post-litigation conversations between the two companies were what eventually led to the sale.
A Facebook representative gave us the following statement, “We can confirm that we acquired some technology developed by WhoGlue. The WhoGlue team isn’t joining Facebook and instead will continue working on its own social networking software for organizations.”
According to other reports Facebook also acquired the stakes of WhoGlue’s shareholders, including Siemens, but Facebook would not give any further details on the veracity of those reports.
In a move uncharacteristic of the talent-hungry Facebook, the WhoGlue team was not part of the acquisition, and in fact Hardeback plans on forming a new company, WhoGlue LLC, that will basically continue in the same space.
The WhoGlue technology allows a group to privately network within a larger network, and can be applied to subnetwork functions like integrating Facebook Groups content more widely throughout Facebook without violating user privacy.
Our resident Facebook expert Josh Constine also had this quite interesting theory, “If it were ever to launch in China, the technology could also help Facebook operate a cordoned-off sub-network for the country that wouldn’t violate the Great Firewall.”