Facebook’s hunger for juicy startup morsels is somewhat insatiable, gauging its recent merger-and-acquisition activity. But when it goes in for the kill, it’s typically for one reason and one reason alone: acquisition of talent, lest they become threats.

Two things the social network does exceedingly well are speed (its purchases are strikingly swift), all but knocking aside the tech-biggie competition, such as Microsoft; and acquiring brainpower and exceptional skill (aka, talent), The New York Times reported.

In this way, the social network can continue to improve and expand upon its proven site, as well as snuffing out any potential opponents.

The largest social network has guzzled nearly two-dozen startups over the past 24 months, the Times reported, including customer loyalty service Tagtile and Glancee, a social discovery mobile application for smartphones, within days of its $1 billion Instagram purchase.

Facebook has also acquired check-in company Hot Potato, and infographic and layout professionals Snaptu, Sofa, Push Pop Press, and Strobe.

Facebook’s purchase of social aggregator FriendFeed took place over a weekend, and Co-Founder Paul Buchheit told the Times:

I met with Mark on a Friday afternoon. By Sunday night, we’d signed papers and announced the deal on Monday.

Who needs long-term planning?

Neither are initial shoulder-taps guided by attorneys and their legalese, but rather informal discussions with Facebook Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg himself set the tone, often aided by Director of Corporate Development Vaughan Smith, according to the Times.

Smart moves: Talent feeds off of and fuels talent. What’s more, at Facebook, acquired talent does not seem to be given outsider status, but rather, newcomers are often rewarded over time with growth opportunities, which helps to reduce attrition. Current Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor was a co-founder of FriendFeed.

Not all fruit is ripe for the tasting, though. For example, Foursquare refused to be bought, at least, not yet.

As posited by the Times and The Wall Street Journal, it’s this ribbon of acquisition activity that may provide clues as to which areas Facebook plans on developing next.

Readers: Are there possible pitfalls to Facebook’s rapid-fire startup purchases? purchases do you think may be next on the horizon: Pinterest, others?

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