I just got off the phone with Mike Schroepfer of Facebook and Paul Buchheit of FriendFeed to discuss their acquisition. As you’ve probably read elsewhere, the companies are being relatively tight lipped about information surrounding the acquisition but I thought I’d take the opportunity to discuss why Facebook would make such an acquisition. Before discussing the logic behind Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed, I wanted to note that I asked Paul Buchheit (who was the the creator of GMail) if he’d be developing FMail and he said “Not that I’m aware of!”
Why The Acquisition Went Down
I think it’s pretty clear that Facebook has acquired FriendFeed to get an amazing team of developers that have not only built amazing products in the past but were in the process of tackling many of the challenges that Facebook’s also facing with scaling their feed service. Facebook has over 250 million users (and growing quickly) and while the company may have far more users than FriendFeed, both companies are facing similar technical challenges.
With an ambitious view of the future Facebook is looking to hire the best web engineers in the world and FriendFeed truly has an amazing team. I asked Paul about how many feed stories have published and he would say specifically but said it was beyond half a billion. My guess is that it’s far more than that considering the company has been around for two years. Regardless of the number of users or number of updates, FriendFeed is a technological leader in the real-time web wars.
Similar Product Visions
Paul Bucheit told me that Facebook and FriendFeed have similar product visions which made there decision to get acquired by Facebook a no brainer. While there is a lot of debate about whether this was an attack on Google or an attack on Twitter, the main point is that there is huge opportunity in the real-time web space and Facebook is looking to be the leader in the space.
We are still extremely early in the real-time web space. Right now companies are having issues just scaling to receive the massive amounts of data being provided by users. If you want to do statistical analysis of any of the data being provided it requires a large amount of time. In other words we’ve become extremely efficient at processing data to be stored but making that information relevant is still challenging.
FriendFeed has already tackled some of the bottlenecks as illustrated by their search product but there are still many more challenges that need to be overcome. What does this mean for the future of Facebook’s advertising products? Nothing different than what I wrote about this morning except that the real-time technical challenges that Facebook is dealing with will need to be overcome before real-time ad targeting will become available.
Overall this acquisition made a lot of sense for Facebook and while Paul Bucheit said there was no urgency to get acquired and move on, both companies have a shared vision. With that in mind it appears as though this was an excellent acquisition by Facebook and now both teams can work together to overcome the technical challenges that lie ahead.