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friendfeedFacebook said it will acquire FriendFeed today in what reports peg at a price of $50 million, pulling in a team of high-profile early Google engineers, in what could be a concerted bid to one-up Twitter in the real-time space.

The deal gives FriendFeed’s backers a graceful exit and lets the engineers reach a much larger user base with the product innovations they’ve developed over the last two years. The company had raised $5 million in funding two years ago from co-founder and Gmail architect Paul Buchheit, fellow ex-Googler Sanjeev Singh, with a minority participation from Benchmark Capital. Despite how much praise FriendFeed won for its design, it couldn’t match the pace of Twitter or Facebook’s growth. The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Facebook picks up one of the most innovative companies around in content sharing; FriendFeed’s “likes” feature inspired copycat designs on the social networking site. Facebook also prevents FriendFeed’s team from being reabsorbed into Google and gets some of the real-time stream access it wanted when it tried to buy Twitter last year.

Co-founder Bret Taylor said for the time being, FriendFeed will continue to operate normally in a company blog post. However, the acquisition raises longer-term questions about FriendFeed’s continued existence as its features will presumably get rolled into Facebook.

The release is here:

Facebook Agrees to Acquire Sharing Service FriendFeed

PALO ALTO, Calif. — August 10, 2009 — Facebook today announced that it has agreed to acquire FriendFeed, the innovative service for sharing online. As part of the agreement, all FriendFeed employees will join Facebook and FriendFeed’s four founders will hold senior roles on Facebook’s engineering and product teams.

“Facebook and FriendFeed share a common vision of giving people tools to share and connect with their friends,” said Bret Taylor, a FriendFeed co-founder and, previously, the group product manager who launched Google Maps. “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.”

“As we spent time with Mark and his leadership team, we were impressed by the open, creative culture they’ve built and their desire to have us contribute to it,” said Paul Buchheit, another FriendFeed co-founders. Buchheit, the Google engineer behind Gmail and the originator of Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto, added, “It was immediately obvious to us how passionate Facebook’s engineers are about creating simple, ground-breaking ways for people to share, and we are extremely excited to join such a like-minded group.”

Taylor and Buchheit founded FriendFeed along with Jim Norris and Sanjeev Singh in October 2007 after all four played key roles at Google for products like Gmail and Google Maps. At FriendFeed, they’ve brought together a world-class team of engineers and designers.

“Since I first tried FriendFeed, I’ve admired their team for creating such a simple and elegant service for people to share information,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “As this shows, our culture continues to make Facebook a place where the best engineers come to build things quickly that lots of people will use.”

FriendFeed is based in Mountain View, Calif. and has 12 employees. will continue to operate normally for the time being as the teams determine the longer term plans for the product.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not released.

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