Facebook is buying a Web service called FriendFeed that gives users a view of what their friends are doing on all sorts of social media sites, including Facebook's rivals.
In an interview, FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor said the two services will eventually merge, though FriendFeed will operate separately for now. He said FriendFeed was drawn to Facebook's much larger base of 250 million users.
"Facebook has a really unique opportunity for our team to reach a significant percentage of the world, and that was an opportunity I think everyone on our team was extremely excited about," he said.
Facebook said all 12 employees of Mountain View, Calif.-based FriendFeed will work for Facebook, whose headquarters is nearby in Palo Alto. FriendFeed's four founders — Taylor, Paul Buchheit, Jim Norris and Sanjeev Singh — will take on senior positions on the engineering and product teams at Facebook.
It's unclear what exactly Facebook plans to do with FriendFeed, which centers around the idea of instantaneously aggregating information from online destinations like short-messaging site Twitter, review site Yelp and photo-sharing site Flickr.
Gartner Inc. analyst Ray Valdes said the FriendFeed acquisition should help Facebook open up its site and boost features that show users more information in real time.
"They needed to do something to meet the Twitter challenge," he said, referring to the messaging site that has shown the type of buzz Facebook once enjoyed.
Chris Cox, Facebook's vice president of products, said the companies had been talking about a combination for some time, as they're both working on solving the same problems: how to help people connect with one another over time, how to make these connections work on various devices and how to filter information through friends.
"I think both companies start with the premise that the most valuable information in the world is the one that comes from the people you care about," he said. "Building technologies that leverage those relationships everywhere you go is where we're both starting from."
Cox would not say if Facebook plans to incorporate FriendFeed's real-time search capability into its site. He said Facebook has already been testing real-time search and that FriendFeed has done a great job with its own search.
Financial terms were not disclosed.