Facebook on Monday made its most significant acquisition to date, announcing it will buy the innovative social sharing service FriendFeed, in a move that that will fuel Facebook’s drive to embed itself more widely throughout the web.
Both companies are privately held and terms of the deal were not released.
The announcement follows last year’s failed attempt by Facebook to buy Twitter, the internet micro-blogging site, for $500m.
FriendFeed lets users share content and links with a group of followers in real time and broadcast that information across other social networks and blogs. It has about 1m monthly visitors, according to analytics firm Compete.
Many of its features have been mimicked by Facebook and Twitter, both of which are also trying to develop real-time search capabilities and share content more widely.
Facebook in March redesigned its homepage with a real-time news feed in the centre, emulating much of FriendFeed’s functionality.
“Over the past year and a half we felt our products and visions were evolving together,” said FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor. “We really were thinking about these problems in the same way.”
FriendFeed’s technology for sharing and distributing online content will be put to use as Facebook works to scale its growing service and integrate with more sites around the web.
“Facebook is evolving into a service, not just the destination Facebook.com,” said Chris Cox, Facebook director of product. “FriendFeed has been addressing these problems from day one.”
FriendFeed was founded in 2007 with $5m in funding from its founders and Benchmark Capital. Although it caught on with a small set of early adopters, it failed to gain large-scale traction.
FriendFeed will continue to operate as a standalone site for the time being, but Mr Taylor said: “Our long-term vision is to integrate with Facebook more closely.”
The company’s 12 employees will join Facebook, most likely working on the Connect and Open Stream API products, which integrate Facebook with other sites on the internet.
Two of FriendFeed’s founders were behind some of Google’s most successful products. Mr Taylor was previously the group product manager who launched Google Maps. Paul Buchheit developed Gmail and was the originator of Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto.
“There’s a lot of innovation in the FriendFeed team,” said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst for Forrester Research. “Facebook is going to bring them in to get stronger.”
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with more than 250m active users.
“I’m surprised that they sold so early in the game,” said Mr Owyang. “They were just getting started.”