Facebook buys data compression specialist Onavo to aid its Internet.org quest


Facebook has bought Onavo, an Israeli firm that helps people use less data on their Android and iOS mobile devices. The purchase fits in nicely with Facebook’s quest to bring the internet to more of the developing world.

Like Blaast and Snappli, Onavo uses compression technology to cut down on data usage. In much of the developing world, mobile data costs a lot more than it does in, say, the U.S. or Europe, so this approach has great appeal (though it is obviously used by people in the “developed” world too, particularly with those trying to minimize roaming fees).

Onavo’s investors have included Horizons Ventures, Motorola Mobility Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Magma Venture Partners. There is no stated figure for the takeover, but Israeli publication Calcalist puts it at $150-200 million.

In a blog post on Sunday, Onavo CEO Guy Rosen said his team was looking forward to “supporting Facebook’s mission to connect the world.”

He wrote:

“As you know, Facebook and other mobile technology leaders recently launched Internet.org, formalizing Facebook’s commitment to improving access to the internet for the next 5 billion people — this is a challenge we’re also passionate about.

“We’re excited to join their team, and hope to play a critical role in reaching one of Internet.org’s most significant goals – using data more efficiently, so that more people around the world can connect and share.”

If you’re an Onavo user, fear not: the firm will continue to offer its mobile utility apps under its own name. Perhaps with a nod towards Facebook’s, um, reputation, Rosen stressed: “As always, we remain committed to the privacy of people who use our application and that commitment will not change.”

Internet.org, which launched in August, isn’t the only initiative that aims to spread affordable connectivity to parts of the world where it currently doesn’t reach. Just last week, Google, international development agencies and the World Wide Web Foundation — and Facebook — launched the Alliance For Affordable Internet.

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