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Facebook secures ex-Google brain trust

FriendFeed buy nets nimble minds

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Facebook has agreed to acquire FriendFeed, a file, photo, video, and message-sharing website whose co-founders are all former Googlers, one of whom coined Google's renowned motto, "Don't be evil."

Perhaps the most important assets that Facebook will land as a result of the acquisition won't be FriendFeed's technology, but instead their staff - especially two of the co-founders, Paul Buchheit and Bret Taylor.

When at Google in the mid-1990s, Buchheit birthed that company's content-based ad targeter, AdSense. He was also the brains behind Gmail and famously dreamed up Google's somewhat debatable motto during a "corporate-values" brainstorming session back in 2001.

Co-founder Bret Taylor's résumé is also impressive, having been Google's group product manager during Google Maps' development. The remaining two co-founders, Jim Norris and Sanjeev Singh, are not exactly chopped liver themselves, having also "played key roles" in Google engineering, according to today's announcement.

In the same canned statement, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had good things to say about FriendFeed's "simple and elegant service for people to share information," but also focused on the acquisition of minds over technology. "As this [acquisition] shows, our culture continues to make Facebook a place where the best engineers come to build things quickly that lots of people will use."

The Mountain View, California-based FriendFeed has a total of 12 employees and will, according to the announcement, conduct business as usual until decisions are made as to how their new parent will use their technology.

Taylor also noted in a separate blog post that "FriendFeed.com will continue to operate normally for the time being. We're still figuring out our longer-term plans for the product with the Facebook team."

But as might be expected in an acquisition announcement, Taylor sounds raring to go. "We can’t wait to join the team and bring many of the innovations we’ve developed at FriendFeed to Facebook’s 250 million users around the world," he enthused.

Although 12 new people won't change Facebook overnight, Buchheit and Taylor have both shown how a few fine engineering minds can help transform an entire company. You can't help but think that members of the Google brain trust are kicking themselves over the ones that got away.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not revealed, but, as Taylor put it, "As my mom explained to me, when two companies love each other very much, they form a structured investment vehicle..." ®

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