Google Jabs Facebook With Meebo

Jun. 8.12 | About: Alphabet Inc. (GOOG)

by Tedra DeSue

Market players awoke Tuesday morning to yet another announcement by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) that it had purchased a major company, and this time the acquisition will squarely boost its position to compete with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).

After the closing bell on Monday, Google announced the purchase of the privately-held ad platform provider Meebo. In after hours trading, the stock ticked up about 1.3% to around $579. I firmly expect it to climb further as this news spreads.

The amount of the purchase was not disclosed. However, Meebo has been rumored to be valued at $100 million.

Meebo is supposed to help users cut through the clutter of information available on the Web through personalization. Users build a profile of topics that interest them, and then Meebo uses the topics to build a personalized stream of content related to the users' interests. Users can "favorite" which interests they like by clicking icons for smiles, frowns, hearts or laughs.

For businesses, Meebo touts its Meebo Bar as a way to create unique Web experiences for websites and advertisers to help drive engagement, brand awareness, and incremental revenue to its publisher partners. The bar allows for companies to advertise their products and services.

It's that Meebo Bar that I find most annoying, so when I first heard of the possible acquisition of the company by Google last month, I cringed. The bar is stuck on the bottom of a growing number of websites and prompts users to share what they are reading. Gizmodo, whose advice I followed to disable the bar, summed up the bar this way:

"It spits up ads and nags you to share stuff on Facebook while you're just trying to read. It's a website add-on increasingly used by publishers who hate their readers."

Learning to disable the Meebo Bar was as satisfying for me as blocking pop-ups. As I learned that I was not the only one who had this kind of disdain for the bar, I could not help but to wonder why on earth Google would want to buy this company.

Now that Google has bought Meebo, the fate of the Meebo Bar is unknown. What is known is that the acquisition allows Google to further grow its staff of developers as it tries to improve Google Plus and lure people from Facebook. For Google, Meebo means being able to tap into a skilled group of developers who have expertise in social publisher tools that can help it improve Google Plus.

Meebo's statement about the deal was: "For more than seven years we've been helping publishers find deeper relationships with their users and to make their sites more social and engaging. Together with Google, we're super jazzed to roll up our sleeves and get cracking on even bigger and better ways to help users and website owners alike."

Meebo Bar aside, Meebo had proven that it was a formidable player in the social media space before Google bought it. One of Meebo's most recent coups occurred in May. It inked a deal with Hearst Digital Media to put the Meebo Bar on the web sites of several of its magazines. They include Cosmopolitan, Country Living, ELLE Decor, Seventeen and REDBOOK.

Since being founded in 2005, Meebo has raised $70 million in venture capital and attracted 100 million users in the U.S.

Currently, Google Plus has about 170 million subscribers. That pales in comparison to the 950 million users that Facebook boasts.

Google has managed to corner the market as a search engine company. One needs to only look at the struggles of Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) to see the impact Google has on the search engine space. There is AOL (NYSE:AOL), but it is powered by Google.

While there is no doubt Google excels as a search engine company, it's really good at acquiring companies to meet its growth needs. Google has bought dozens of companies since being founded in 1998. They include Android, You Tube, Slide and DoubleClick.

Its latest and most expensive purchase came when it bought Motorola (NYSE:MMI) for $12.5 billion. By acquiring Motorola, Google has positioned its self to be able to manufacture its own mobile devices. This was important as it competes with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, which is powered by Apple's own operating system called iOS. Google had not had its own operating system prior to acquiring Android in 2005, so it seemed it was the natural order of things for Google to eventually acquire its own handset maker to install its Android on.

While the Android acquisition was the most impactful purchase for Google, the Motorola transaction was the most expensive. This is where I have concerns. They boil down to whether Google is stretching its self too thin. It is entering several different areas, but they all go back to mobile computing. This is good considering the growth in this area. There is solace in knowing that Google is acquiring the talent needed to further its endeavors in this space.

Google reported its most recent quarterly results in April, and announced that revenues for the quarter ended March 31, were up 24% year on year. They totaled $10.65 billon. In the first quarter of 2012, TAC totaled $2.51 billion, or 25% of advertising revenues.

At this point, I think it would behoove Google to continue to assemble the best team of developers and managers. There is something to be said of the failure of Motorola and so many other handset manufacturers. I can't chalk up their falling to the wayside as being the direct result of competition from Apple. There are a lot of players that make for solid competitors. Google reigns supreme now. Remaining at the front of the pack will be its biggest challenge.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.