Kara Swisher

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Take That, Twitter! Facebook's Cox and FriendFeed's Taylor Talk About the Deal (But Not BoomTown's $50 Million Guess on the Price)

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After Facebook announced today that it had acquired online content-sharing site FriendFeed, BoomTown had a short chit-chat with Facebook’s Director of Product, Chris Cox, and FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor.

Although neither budged on telling me about the purchase price, which various Silicon Valley venture capitalists I spoke to estimated to be about $50 million in cash and stock, they both talked about how copacetic the two companies were.

Benchmark Capital and angel investors had put about $5 million into the start-up, which–while innovative–has failed to garner the red-hot growth of either Twitter or Facebook since it was founded in 2007.

(I mean, even if No. 1 FriendFeed Fanboy Robert Scoble said that too, it must be so!)

Cox and Taylor said the companies came together after several months of casual conversations, probably sometime after Twitter spurned Facebook’s $500 million stock-and-cash offer last year.

But, as in failed love affairs, moving on is the next best thing to do!

“At its core, we have the same vision for these types of products around real-time sharing and discovery,” said Taylor. “The ideas we have and view from Facebook were converging, so this made sense.”

He also noted that Facebook’s huge user base of upward of 250 million people–especially compared to FriendFeed’s one million monthly unique visitors–”was an offer we could not pass up.”

While in a previous interview with me Taylor and one of his other co-founders, Paul Buchheit, said they wanted to remain independent, the former Googler said “this was right thing for our company.”

And how, since Facebook was working on a lot of the content- and update-sharing features that FriendFeed had been pioneering so well, and Twitter had pulled so far ahead in the horse race.

Taylor agreed, referring to Facebook. “When such a large successful company is working on solving that problem too, we realized we could work more effectively in their organization,” he said.

Facebook’s Cox agreed that one-plus-one equaled Twitter-killer. (Well, he did not say that–I did!)

“We have watched [FriendFeed's] products from the beginning and the people themselves are just amazing,” he said, making the purchase sound a lot more like a talent acquisition than anything else.

Cox noted that time was a-wasting too in the real-time and sharing arena.

“I think all this stuff is evolving very quickly and and at the speed of light and there are not many that understand it at a deep level,” said Cox. “We just feel it’s important to have those people in the room and in the building, and not just on Facebook.com, but everywhere in the world.”

While it is unclear what kinds of products would evolve, both said a “culture match” would facilitate good things.

Not that it will be easy, said Cox: “Facebook operates at such a scale that we approach this with a high degree of humility.”

Neither would comment about my question of which side would have to now reign in FriendFeed fanatic Scoble, who loves the service the way a tween girl loves Robert Pattinson of “Twilight.”

Here is my video interview with Taylor and Buchheit last December, as well as a tour of FriendFeed’s Mountain View, Calif., HQ:


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle