My Thoughts on the Friendfeed Acquisition by Facebook

Facebook, the leading global social network, dropped a bomb on the sociosphere on Monday by announcing they had bought the very innovative social streaming service called Friendfeed. I gave an interview to Marketing Magazine (Canada’s Advertising Age) explaining the rationale behind the acquisition. Here are the highlights:

  • First and foremost, Facebook bought a great engineering team and excellent technology assets. The 12 Friendfeed employees and co-founders were innovating at a breakneck speed. Two of the co-founders, Bret Taylor and Paul Buchheit, used to work at Google where they respectively created Google Maps and Gmail.
  • It’s all about the search war. Google vs. Facebook. Algorithmic search vs. real-time search. Machines vs. humans. Facebook had pretty much been beaten by Twitter on the real-time activity and real-time search front. Rumor has it that when Twitter turned down a rich offer from Facebook to buy them, Facebook decided to take a better look at Friendfeed.
  • The transaction has been estimated at close to $50 million by the Wall Street Journal. According to the newspaper, “The company paid roughly $15 million in cash, with the rest in Facebook stock that vests over several years and would be worth roughly $32.5 million based on the $6.5 billion common valuation an investor recently placed on the company.”
  • Such an exit for Friendfeed is very good given that their traffic had plateau-ed at 1 million users per month, they didn’t have any revenues and they never managed to become popular outside of the Silicon Valley digerati. They created amazing and innovative technology though.
  • The founders did not sell because they wanted to cash out. They already did that with their Google options (Buchheit was employee #23 at the Mountain View search engine). They must have felt integrating Facebook was the right move at the right time.
  • The Friendfeed team will pretty much become Facebook’s R&D department.

What it means: Smart move by Facebook. Very good move for Friendfeed. Working inside Facebook will give the Friendfeed team more resources to execute on their innovative ideas. It gives Facebook great technology, amazing people and faster execution.

I’ve seen similar moves happen in the Local Media industry in the last few months. For example,

  • Truvo, a directory publisher in 6 European countries, acquired yelloyello, a startup from the Netherlands, in December 2008. Truvo transformed yelloyello into Truvo Labs to leverage social media technologies within the Truvo network.
  • AOL, who recently restructured to put “local” as one of their corporate strategic pillars, bought Patch, a US citizen journalism startup, and, a US local event portal in June 2009.
  • Herold, the Austrian Yellow Pages owned by European Directories, made a strategic investment in Tupalo, a social Yellow Pages site from Austria, in June 2009.
  • Canpages, a Canadian directory publisher, acquired ZipLocal, a social Yellow Pages destination site in June 2009.

Qype: "People + Algorithm Better than Algorithm" (EADP 2009)

Heard from Stephen Taylor, [praized subtype=”small” pid=”e05a4250d652484974e47fda5bd84b6b” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]’s CEO, this morning in a presentation titled “Competition from new business models”. As most of you know, Qype is a social local site in Europe (we could say it’s the equivalent of Yelp there).

Here are some interesting data points about them:

  • The largest local review site in Europe (also present in Brazil) – 6 languages
  • Reviews in 140 countries (I think they allow anyone to add listings from any country)
  • 9M+ unique users in May 2009 (+350% in 12 months)
  • 1m+ reviews
  • They monetize using display advertising, Google AdWords, eCom and transaction revenues and premium business listings

As Taylor said, their business leverages the fact that anyone with a keyboard is now an author, that anyone with a browser is a publisher. With the rise of social media, presentation of facts/data is not enough to sustain an audience. It’s now about sharing, community, connecting with other people. I think he described it perfectly when he said “people + algorithm is better than algorithm”. Today, we’re in the fourth phase of the evolution of search (he calls it social search) which includes editorial, automation and topology.

As for future developments, Taylor offered the following advice: recognize where audiences are and he mentioned the long tail of the Web (smaller sites, blogs, forums, etc.). He said that’s where people are connecting. Qype is ready for those new opportunities via their open API currently in v1 (which exposes geo content). v2 will allow content to be written.

What it means: I think Qype is a very interesting company. They’ve been able to corral the voice of the European consumers. I agree with the future direction, of trying to embed yourself in smaller web sites. I was a bit disappointed by their monetization strategy. I was hoping they would have been further ahead in terms of sources of revenues.

YouTube Mobile: June 2007

Katie Fehrenbacher from GigaOM reports that YouTube’s mobile website will be available in June 2007 for US users and in May for European ones. The site will have 800 “editorial picks” video at the beginning in order to trial the service and gets some feedback. Their end goal is to launch a site with all the YouTube content.

She adds: “In response to my question if YouTube is developing a mobile client, the spokesperson said that the company had been talking about it, but had no information to share at this time. Check out a preview of the blocked mobile site or this demo site: which you can see from some mobile phones.”

What it means: in this new social media world, we often forget that a great way to consume media is through a mobile device. Knowing that many local search players are thinking of launching video ad products (or have done so recently), I think it would be interesting to think about a mobile interface when building the product.