updated 04:00 pm EDT, Mon September 24, 2007
Google and MS on Facebook
Both Google and Microsoft are seriously considering investing in social networking site Facebook, according to an unverified claim from the Wall Street Journal. The business publication cites unnamed sources who say that either company would like to obtain a small controlling stake in the Palo Alto-based web firm, offering them partial control over the site's direction as well as significantly boosting Facebook's financial value. Microsoft's stake would be worth between $300 to $500 million and could boost the overall value to at least $10 billion, say the sources. None of the companies involved have volunteered to comment, and the report alleges that Facebook may decline either offer to maintain its full independence.
The relatively sudden interest in the site is due largely to Microsoft's intent to beat Google in the advertising space, the insiders explained. After Google declared its intent to buy web ad agency DoubleClick this year, Microsoft promptly responded by purchasing rival group aQuantive in an attempt to gain a similar level of clout. Facebook has reportedly developed its own ad system that would float context-sensitive ads based on a member's profile and habits.
A decision by either Google or Microsoft to acquire a stake could also have an impact on their respective partners, as the control would encourage the victor to integrate some of its own features with Facebook's main services and its applications. Partners that rely heavily on their services could also be affected, such as Apple. The latter recently used Facebook's iPhone-optimized website to demonstrate web applications on the iPod touch during chief executive Steve Jobs' September iPod event, while also using several Google services such as Google Maps and YouTube on the touch as well as the iPhone.