Google Buys Startups Apture, Katango

Two new acquisitions announced Thursday

Google’s acquisition spree continued this week with the announcement that the tech giant bought two startups, Apture and Katango, for undisclosed amounts.

Apture, a startup aiming to bring a richer reading experience to partners' websites like The New York Times and the Financial Times, just announced that it has been acquired by Google.

The company launched its first product in 2008, billing it as a way for bloggers and other website publishers to make their content more "three-dimensional." Partner sites could enhance their articles with links to Wikipedia pages, YouTube videos, Scribd documents, Twitter accounts, and more—the links would open as small pop-up windows. It was a way for publishers to enrich their content and hopefully entice readers to stick around longer.

Since then, Apture has improved its service, adding features like automatically generated links (so that bloggers didn't have to create the links themselves) and a browser plug-in (so users could explore Apture content on any website). CEO Tristan Harris has become a regular speaker on "future of journalism" panels. And the company says it has "enhanced more than a billion pages" with Apture links.

Following the acquisition, Apture technology will be added to Google's Chrome Web browser—though Harris (who's joining the Chrome team as a product manager) won't say how and when we'll see those changes or what kinds of additions might be made. The companies aren't sharing the terms of the deal, either.

Harris said that when Google approached Apture about an acquisition, the offer made a lot of sense, because Chrome's "insane" growth (it now claims to have 200 million users) could help Apture reach a broader audience. As for Apture's existing products, Harris said his team will be shutting down the browser plug-in and the features built for partner sites, so that they can focus on Chrome.

Does that mean Apture is abandoning its vision of helping news organizations keep readers? Harris countered that Apture's vision has always been bigger than news.

"I don't think this changes very much—our interest has always been in making the Web experience easier," Harris said, later adding, "These kinds of things should be built into the fabric of the Web."

On Thursday, Katango, a social networking startup, announced that it had also been acquired by Google.

“Katango was founded a little over a year ago to develop social algorithms that improve people's online social interaction,” the company states on its site. “We're excited to join the Google+ team and carry on fulfilling that mission. Google+ is seeing tremendous momentum, so it's a perfect time to join and make Circles smarter for millions of people.”

Bradley Horowitz, vp of product management for Google+, welcomed the startup with a note on his Google+ profile.

“Very excited to confirm that we've just acquired Katango! In the earliest days of Google+, I alluded to the fact that we had big plans for Circles,” he wrote. “Are you ready for some magic in your Circles? These folks are magicians!”