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Facebook’s acquisition of TBH isn’t like when it bought Instagram

The app is popular app with teens, but it isn’t exactly the next Snapchat.

Three teenage girls look at their phones while sitting beside a fountain in London. Richard Baker / Getty Images

Teens aren’t using Facebook like they used to, and Facebook knows that.

That helps explain why this week the social giant acquired TBH, an anonymous app for answering questions about yourself or your friends that is predominantly used by high schoolers. It spent most of the summer at or near the top of the rankings on the iOS App Store. (It’s ranked No. 1 today following Facebook’s acquisition.)

But while there are some similarities, this isn’t like when Facebook bought Instagram.

TBH is at a very different stage than Instagram was when it was acquired. When Facebook bought the photo-sharing app in 2012, it had 30 million monthly users and Facebook paid $1 billion for it. It was a legitimate threat.

TBH was not. The company has just five employees, and Facebook spent nowhere close to $1 billion to acquire it. The app was downloaded more than five million times in the last few months, but it hasn’t yet shown the kind of staying power that Instagram did. Sources say that TBH, which has tried and failed with a bunch of social products in the past, was actively seeking a buyer that could invest more in the company to help it sustain its success and attract more users. (TBH isn’t available yet on Android, for example.)

It feels like Facebook bought a test more than it bought the “next big thing.”

TBH will continue to operate, but it’s unlikely that its core group will get the kind of autonomy we’ve seen from more advanced acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp. TBH probably won’t get things like its own office or email addresses, for example.

Instead, it’s probably safer to think of TBH like Facebook’s acquisition of MSQRD, the standalone app that lets users transform their selfies with face filters. That app still exists as a standalone product, but some of the features were brought into the main Facebook app. Facebook will undoubtedly use the data and learnings from TBH to inform other products for similar users.

This could change, of course, if TBH grows into a massive product. But for now, Facebook wanted to reach teens, and TBH already does that. By acquiring the app, Facebook found a cheap way to test out something new, and ensure that TBH won’t become the next Snapchat as a standalone app.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.