Just received word from Facebook that the company has made its first acquisition: Parakey, a startup founded by Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt, co-founders of Mozilla Firefox. Ross and Hewitt will join Facebook immediately to work on the Facebook Platform. From Facebook’s Brandee Barker:
“Blake and Joe built the Firefox web browser and then turned to the developer community to build on top of the foundation they’d established, not unlike what we’ve done with Facebook Platform,” said Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. “The work they’ve done with Firefox and Parakey and their approach to building products fit right in at Facebook.”
Ross and Hewitt are best known as the co-founders of Firefox, which has been downloaded more than 300 million times by people worldwide. Hewitt went on to build popular web development tools such as Firebug. In early 2006, Ross and Hewitt founded Parakey to build a platform bridging the gap between information on the web and the desktop.
“Facebook Platform is finally making it easy to share experiences with friends and family over the web, a goal Joe and I have worked toward for years,” said Ross. “We are thrilled to join the most innovative technology company in the industry.”
For the last two years Parakey has been developing a platform that will synchronize your documents and files across web and desktop applications. Ross spoke to IEEE Spectrum last November describing the service as a “Web operating system.”
Parakey is intended to be a platform for tools that can manipulate just about anything on your hard drive—e-mail, photos, videos, recipes, calendars. In fact, it looks like a fairly ordinary Web site, which you can edit. You can go online, click through your files and view the contents, even tweak them. You can also check off the stuff you want the rest of the world to be able to see. Others can do so by visiting your Parakey site, just as they would surf anywhere else on the Web. Best of all, the part of Parakey that’s online communicates with the part of Parakey running on your home computer, synchronizing the contents of your Parakey pages with their latest versions on your computer. That means you can do the work of updating your site off-line, too. Friends and relatives—and hackers—do not have direct access to your computer; they’re just visiting a site that reflects only the portion of your stuff that you want them to be able to see.
Parakey is Facebook’s first publicly announced acquisition. The company reportedly received seed funding from Doug Leone at Sequoia Capital in early 2005 and later O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, but Facebook is not releasing financial terms of the transaction.