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Social startup slurped by Purple Palace

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In the latest of a string of acquisitions since ex-Googler Marissa Mayer came aboard as CEO, Yahoo! has acquired ssocial-media munger Rockmelt for an undisclosed sum (though AllThingsD's Kara Swisher pegs the price at somewhere between $60m and $70m).

You may remember Rockmelt as the Marc Andreessen–backed startup that built a web browser organized around social media. More recently it morphed into a social content aggregator that delivers personalized feeds via a website and a set of apps for mobile platforms.

"The parallels between Yahoo! and Rockmelt are obvious: we share a common goal to help people discover the best personalized content from around the web," Yahoo!'s Mike Kerns and Adam Cahan said in a statement on Friday.

Just what the Purple Palace plans to do with Rockmelt's technology was not disclosed. Kerns is Yahoo!'s VP of product, while Cahan is its senior VP of mobile and emerging products – so not many clues there.

One thing Yahoo! won't be doing, however, is continuing Rockmelt's operations in their current form. The process of dismantling the company's products has already begun, and Rockmelt said in a blog post on Friday that all of its current apps and websites will be shut down on August 31. The old Rockmelt browser, having long been slated for the scrapyard, stopped working on Wednesday.

More attractive to Yahoo! than Rockmelt's software, most likely, is its portfolio of intellectual property. Fans of the old Rockmelt browser may remember that its windows featured columns of social networking icons along its left- and right-hand sides. Apparently that UI design was so novel that Rockmelt patented it. Twice.

In fact, a search of the US Patent and Trademark Office database reveals that Rockmelt holds at least six patents, some of which sound like just the sort of thing that might interest a company like Yahoo!. Take Patent No. 8,386,915, "Integrated link statistics within an application," for example. Or Patent Nos. 8,356,051 and 8,209,349, both of which involve "Integrated saved search results."

Rockmelt's patents were filed in the days when it was trying to ship its own desktop web browser, but there's likely to still be some meat there that could benefit Yahoo!'s future plans. Also, Mayer has positioned Yahoo! as a "mobile first" company of late, and Rockmelt's recent focus on apps for Android and iOS dovetails nicely with that strategy.

"We can't wait to integrate the Rockmelt technology into our platform as we work to deliver the best experiences to our users in new and exciting ways," Yahoo!'s Kerns and Cahan said.

Meanwhile, the Rockmelt team went as far as to post a group photo of themselves dressed in Yahoo!'s trademark purple, saying, "We plan to put everything we've learned to work at Yahoo!."

The company has also reminded current Rockmelt users to take advantage of its export service, available via a tile in each of its products, to save their kept items and feeds before the August 31 cutoff date. ®

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