Liz Gannes

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Telefónica Digital Buys Video Chat Platform TokBox

In a transaction that will make the online video calling start-up a wholly owned subsidiary, Telefónica Digital has acquired TokBox. The purchase price was not disclosed.

TokBox video chat

Like other carriers, Telefónica is trying to figure out ways to add value on top of basic voice and messaging services. The company said it expected to provide TokBox services to its own customers as well as to developers.

TokBox was founded way back in 2007, and five years is a loooong time in online video start-up land. TokBox was at first a video chat site, then went through multiple leadership changes, including losing its founders and making significant layoffs.

More recently, the company has helped sites integrate its video chat API. Basic one-on-one conversations are free, and customers pay extra for broadcasts and group discussions, as well as support and video archives.

TokBox CEO Ian Small says his company’s OpenTok software has now been used by 50,000 developers and sites. TokBox also recently expanded to iOS and WebRTC (the framework that enables live communication through a browser without plugins).

Small said that TokBox’s 35 employees will all be joining Telefónica, and will continue to operate independently out of San Francisco. He noted that “everyone is very content with the price,” adding that Telefónica’s 300 million customers were a big draw for his team. “This is a pretty good outcome for a crew that has been building something with a vision in mind that will now get turbocharged,” Small said.

Carlos Domingo, the Telefónica Digital exec in charge of product development and innovation — who is speaking at D: Dive Into Mobile next week — is to become TokBox’s chairman.

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