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Facebook buys social media start-up FriendFeed

Facebook, the world's largest social networking site, said it will buy FriendFeed, netting a group of prized ex-Google engineers in the fast-growing Internet business. FriendFeed, an up-and-coming social media startup, lets people share content online in real time across various social networks and blogs. The service is similar to, though less popular than Twitter, the microblogging site that Facebook tried to buy for $500 million in 2008, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed on Monday, but Facebook said FriendFeed would operate as it has for the time being as the teams determine long-term plans.

Facebook's big gain in the acquisition is the engineering talent at FriendFeed, rather than the actual product, which has won critical praise, but lagged in popularity compared to Twitter, said Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang.

In a statement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he admired the FriendFeed team for having created a service he described as simple and elegant.

FriendFeed's four founders are former Google Inc employees who count well known products like Gmail and Google Maps among their accomplishments.

Facebook said the founders will hold senior roles on its engineering and product teams.

FriendFeed had talked with Facebook “casually” for a couple of months, and that it became clear that the teams were “cut from the same cloths,” FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor told Reuters in an interview.

He declined to say whether FriendFeed had been in talks with other companies.

Facebook has more than 250 million registered users. In May, the social networking company announced a $200 million investment from Russian investor Digital Sky Technologies that pegged the value of its preferred shares at $10 billion.

Facebook has said its revenue is on track to rise 70% this year, and board member Mark Andreessen has said the company will bring in more than $500 million in revenue in 2009.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced changes to its privacy controls to allow people to make their status messages and posts viewable to a broader Internet audience. (Reuters)