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Facebook goes all a twitter with Beluga buy

Poking is so over

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Facebook has stepped firmly into Twitter's territory with the purchase of messaging start-up Beluga, sure to be pushing status updates to a phone near you any day now.

Beluga provides closed group messaging: users create "pods" and invite people to join them, messages addressed to the pod are then bounced out to pod members like an invitation-only Twitter feed, only without the public searchability. Beluga also lacks even Twitter's dubious business model, having no revenue at all – but that's OK now it is part of the Facebook empire.

Financial details aren't being shared, but Beluga's three founders will find themselves quite comfortable at Facebook. All three put in time at Google and will be valuable additions to the Facebook staff, but it seems that unlike previous acquisitions Beluga will be continuing to operate as it gets absorbed into the social network.

C-Net reckons that's in part down to next week's South by Southwest Interactive Festival where social networking plans an important role, and Beluga is hoping to make an impact. But it's also likely that Facebook is keen to get the pod concept integrated into its own offering as quickly as possible.

Facebook status updates have long aped Twitter feeds – status updates now come front and centre of the Facebook home page, with threaded conversations that will clutter up your email inbox with notifications if given the chance. The traditional Facebook "poke" is still there, but tucked away in a corner and very rarely used these days.

The mobile incarnations of Facebook already feature widgets that automatically update with friends' status messages, to such an extent that Facebook has started filtering automatic updates to those "friends" with whom one actually communicates.

So adding a proper push mechanism and message groups is a logical evolution for Facebook, which also explains why the company has bought Beluga before most of us had even heard of it – the fit is near perfect. ®

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