With all of the recent acquisitions by Yahoo! and Google, I decided to take a closer look at some of the companies that Google has purchased. I’m glad I did. I came across a couple of papers I hadn’t seen before, and learned a little more about some of Google’s employees that I didn’t know.
Grand Central Communications
Green Border Technologies
Marratech AB’s Video Conferencing Software
Gapminder’s Trendalyzer Software
(Added September 27, 2007)
Today, there was a note on the front page of the Zingku web site that, “We’ve entered into an agreement to have Google Acquire our Zingku service,” and a report by the Google Operating System blog – Google Buys Zingku, Mobile Social Network.
The Zingku site tells us that the service allows people to:
- Store & fetch mobile photos and txt reminders with alarms on your companion mobile web site.
- Share mobile photos and posts with friends and friends-of-friends with txt msg’ing, instant messenger, & web.
- Gather a big crowd & their friends with txt messaging, IM, and email
- Take an instant poll among friends, all with txt messaging. “Hey what should we do ? 1. Movie 2. Dan’s party”
- Send your own mobile cards that people fetch by txt’ing a magic code. Make as many as you want & link them together.
- Grab postings from blogs and syndicated feeds (RSS, Atom) via text message to your mobile phone.
Zingku also allows merchants to create “mobile flyers” or interactive electronic brochures, and then publish/email a “zing-code” to their customers who opt to pull the flyer to their mobile phone.
At this time, the Zingku service is in private beta.
Zingku started out as Bloobird Studio Inc., and received $1 million in funding in June of 2006 from Flagship Ventures. They changed their name to Zingku officially on December 9, 2006.
The leader of Bloobird was Martin Fahey, who was chief executive of Webhire Inc. Martin Fahey was in charge of spreadsheet marketing at Lotus Development Corp. prior to Webhire.
The founding team also includes two other former IBM/Lotus employees: Sami Shalabi, who led the development of collaborative applications at IBM; and Maurice Shore, who developed techniques for storing and displaying graphics at IBM.
It’s difficult to tell if the following were written for Zingku and are part of what is being transferred over to Google, and they aren’t publicly available, but here are some of the latest patent applications from Sami Shalabi that he has listed on his web site:
- 60/939,734 – Method and System for Social Networking. Filed 2007
- 60/939, 704 – Method and System for Multi-channel Conversation Engine. Filed 2007
- CAM920060171US1 – Private Metadata Integration in an Activity Thread. Filed 2007
The announcement of Google’s acquisition of Postini came in a press release from July 9th. I’ve posted about the pending and granted patents assigned to the company in Google’s New Acquisition Postini and their Patent Filings.
A little more about the background of the company, and their path to being acquired by Google.
Postini received their first round of funding in 1999, and developed into a company providing email antivirus and security applications to some very large corporations. In 2001, Postini was offering email to wireless devices, email by phone, translation of foreign emails, virus protection via “Trend Micro,” blocking of “junk” emails, faxes by email, and other services.
A press release from February 2007, announced that the company had joined the Google Enterprise Professional program, offering security and compliance services for the Google Apps Premiere Edition. These are some of the services cited in the press release:
- Message recovery — providing the ability for administrators to quickly restore accidentally deleted messages.
- Centralized management of all user accounts — allowing administrators to centrally control policy and content.
- Threat management — delivering world-class protection from a broad range of threats to critical business communications.
- Archiving for compliance and e-discovery — helping businesses comply with legal and industry mandates to archive, discover, and produce electronic communications.
Grand Central Communications
On July 2, 2007, Google announced on the Official Google Blog that they had acquired Grand Central Communications. The offering from the company is interesting:
GrandCentral is an innovative service that lets users integrate all of their existing phone numbers and voice mailboxes into one account, which can be accessed from the web.
The company was started in 2005, and was founded by Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet, who had worked together running internet telephony pioneer Dialpad Communications (acquired by Yahoo in 2005). Looking through the Internet Archives, I uncovered a different Grand Central, which offered a very different range of services, but ran into some problems:
If GrandCentral sounds familiar, it’s because it has a history. Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET created a company called Grand Central as a way to integrate all kinds of Web services — eBay, PayPal, Intuit — into a single platform. Despite getting $60 million in venture backing, it ran into trouble — as we reported last year.
According to that article, Halsey Minor financed some part of the the new Grand Central, and the company name was purchased by Walker and Paquet. There are 16 patent applications in the USPTO patent assignment database, assigned to Grand Central Communications, but those appear to have been developed under the earlier incarnation of Grand Central Communications. It’s hard to tell if that intellectual property was transferred over with the name and web site.
This company developed some front end online presentation tools, in a short but very productive period of time, while funded by Y Combinator. I’ve written about the acquisition in more detail at Google Acquires Webfonts Presentation Developers, Zenter, Inc.
Google purchased Tonic Systems (see below) in April, 2007, which makes backend software for presentation systems. Zenter created front end editing tools for presentations, including one referred to as “WebFonts” which it appears that they have applied for a provisional patent for – unpublished as of this date. (Another provisional patent is hinted at in an interview with one of the cofounders of Zenter.) Google provides a few details at the Official Google Blog in More Sharing.
The UK Register announced earlier today that Google had acquired Peakstream, Inc. – Google shivs server crowd with PeakStream buy
Peakstream was founded in January 2005 by Matt Papakipos, Asher Waldfogel and Stanford University Professor, Pat Hanrahan. The website, which is now nonresponsive, notes that Peakstream has 35 employees and is headquartered in Redwood Shores, California. The company creates software that utilizes the processing power in off-the-shelf 3-D accelerator cards in ways that may not have been anticipated by the manufacturers of those cards.
Matt Papakipos and Pat Hanrahan have their names on a number of patent and patent applications, including a number that involve graphics processing and processors. The USPTO doesn’t indicate any publicly published patent filings assigned to Peakstream.
The software works with new high performance processors such as multi-core CPUs, graphics processor units (GPUs) and Cell processors, using a stream processing approach.
The company was inspired by Stanford University’s Brook Project on stream programming.
From one of the press releases previously on the Peakstream site:
ATI GPUs in concert with the PeakStream software platform are giving companies the ability to process data at speeds they’ve only dreamt of until now,” said Dave Orton, CEO and president of ATI Technologies Inc. “Today’s graphics processors are capable of processing far more than just graphics applications – they are fully capable parallel processors ideally suited for a wide range of scientific, business and consumer applications. Using the full-featured PeakStream Platform, companies can now easily program ATI graphics processors for accelerated processing of non-graphics tasks to drive faster and better informed business decisions resulting in real competitive advantages.”
Rumors about the acquisition of this Chicago-based feed management and advertising company had been swirling around for weeks, and official announcements were made today on the Feedburner blog (It’s True-gle!) and on a Feedburner FAQ page (no longer available). The Official Google Blog also makes note of the acquisition in a post titled Adding more flare.
Feedburner was started in 2003, by Dick Costolo, Eric Lunt, Steve Olechowski, and Matt Shobe.
The four founders of Feedburner started working together in 1993, and this was the fourth company that they started together. I checked for patent filings for the company, but didn’t come across any published documents.
A lot of articles about the Feedburner acquisition running today. A tongue in cheek view can be found at 6 Reasons Google Did Not Need To Acquire Feedburner
A Spanish photo tagging and photo sharing site started in October of 2005 by Joaquín Cuenca Abela and Eduardo Manchón Aguilar, Google announced the acquisition of Panoramio on May 30th, 2007, on the Official Google Blog in A picture’s worth a thousand clicks. The Panoramio blog tells us about the acquisition from their perspective – Google agrees to acquire Panoramio
The Google post notes that the Google Earth team has been working with the folks at Panoramio for a while, and that there is a default Google Earth Layer which has been featured there since the beginning of the year. While Panoramio’s site is located in Spain, the more than a million images contained in the site are from around the world. Panoramio’s service allows people to geo-tag the exact location where images were taken.
Green Border Technologies
On May 11th, Google purchased Green Border Technologies, Inc., which makes a sandbox for internet applications to run within, protecting the operating system of a computer from potentially malicious software.
The company has a number of pending patent applications, and a granted patent which I describe in more detail in Google’s Green Border Technologies Patent Filings.
Marratech AB’s Video Conferencing Software
On April 19, 2007, the Official Google Blog announced that Google had acquired the video conferencing software of Marratech AB. Marratach is located in Stockholm, Sweden, but conducts business globally.
It’s unknown if Google will only use this software internally, or if they will make it available to their users for a price, or for free. I’ve written about some of the patent applications from Marratech that may be involved in this transaction at: Google’s Marratech Software Acquistion and Patent Filings
Google announced today that they have acquired Tonic Systems. Tonic Systems makes software that can extract information from presentation software such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint. The information can then be saved in an HTML page or PDF.
More details in Google’s Presentation Patent Application (via Tonic Systems).
Google’s largest acquisition at this point in terms of cost (for $3.1 billion in cash) was announced at the Official Google Blog.
I’ve posted about some of the patent filings that Doubleclick has made over the past few years in Doubleclick + Google: Looking at Some of the Doubleclick Patent Filings. It’s going to be interesting to see how Google moves forward with this purchase.
Gapminder’s Trendalyzer Software
An announcement from Google’s Marissa Mayer on the official Google Blog titled A World in Motion tells us of the acquisition of some new software by Google, as well as the hiring of team members who worked for the foundation that developed the software.
Trendalyzer’s developers have left Gapminder to join Google in Mountain View, where Google intends to improve and scale up Trendalyzer, and make it freely available to those who seek access
This company has been around under the name BiDamic since 2002, and as Adscape Media since 2006. Details are supposedly still being worked out, but it’s sounds like this in-game advertising company has been purchased by Google. One of the news reports included a quote from a Adscape employee who stated that they owned 15 patents.
I found 30 published patent applications, and a granted patent. Links to those and more details about the company at: Google Acquires Adscape Media: Interactive Online Gaming Advertisement and Gaming System Developers
A couple of those patent filings are for full blown, interactive, online gaming systems.
update – 3/17/2007 -Google publishes a press release on the Adscape Media acquisition
Founded by Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer, who had worked together at Excite.com, Jotspot is a wiki with a number of collaborative tools for business users, and includes applications such as spreadsheets, calendars, and forms, unlike most wiki software. I’ve written a longer post on the acquisition at Google Acquires Jotspot, Inc. & Wiki Patent Application
Financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed, but Jotspot had just had a patent application published at the US Patent and Trademark Office:
Collaborative web pages are enabled which allow every page on a website to be editable by an author and by others the author lets access the site. Web pages can send and receive email messages. Users can attach files to pages. Structure queries and page-building are enabled by use of various forms and form elements.
YouTube was founded in February, 2005, and quickly grew to one of the busiest online destinations on the web. The site is community driven, and allows people to post and share videos. Viewers can tag videos, comment upon them, and display them upon their own web sites.
The Google Press Release issued on October 9, 2006, tells us that the sale price was $1.65 Billion in a stock for stock transaction. There are no planned changes to the YouTube brand identity. The company will continue to be based in San Bruno, CA, and all of the YouTube employees will remain with the company.
As of this update, there isn’t a press release on the YouTube site about the Google acquisition, but there are three releases dated today about content and distribution deals with CBS (Strategic Content and Advertising Partnership), Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Content License Agreement ), and Universal Music Group (Strategic Partnership).
Neven Vision, or Nevenengineering, Inc., has a strong background in facial and object recognition technologies, and has been broadening their offerings by focusing upon mobile technology, including two patent application filed over the past couple of years for image-based search on a mobile device equipped with a camera. I’ve written a little about the acquisition, and the company and its technology (including patents) in this post: Google Acquires Neven Vision: Adding Object and Facial Recognition Mobile Technology.
@Last Software (March, 2006) – 3D design software, with a plugin for Google Earth. Rumors of the purchase started circulating as early as October of last year. A Frequently Asked Questions section on the purchase describes changes resulting from the purchase.
The company does hold a US Patent:
A three-dimensional design and modeling environment allows users to draw the outlines, or perimeters, of objects in a two-dimensional manner, similar to pencil and paper, already familiar to them.
The two-dimensional, planar faces created by a user can then be pushed and pulled by editing tools within the environment to easily and intuitively model three-dimensional volumes and geometries.
Writely (March 2006) Web-based word processing that allows online collaboration on documents.
The buzz is on with this acquisition that Google is going to take on Microsoft, and that company’s hold on desktop publishing applications. Except that this isn’t just a desktop publishing application. The program allows you to organize documents by tags, which makes it a web 2.0 styled application, and it provides offline storage and backups. It can also be used to create blog posts for a blog, and allows for rollbacks to previous versions.
Measuremap(February, 2006) A statistics and analytics package geared more towards blogs than other web sites, the acquisition of this company by Google was something of a surprise, especially since Google purchased Urchin, which makes a pretty good analytics program. But the beauty or Measuremap is supposedly in the User Interface and design. Hard to tell at the time of the purchase, since it was invitation-only pre-release mode, and I never received the invitation I signed up for.
dMarc Broadcasting(January, 2006) Radio advertising company, allowing for highly automated advertising campaigns. This acquisition brought Google a whole new way to reach out to consumers with advertisements.
Reqwireless (July, 2006) Maker of popular mobile applications for email and the web on wireless devices. The presumption is that the technology developed by the ReqWireless folks, and the chance to gain a foot hold in the Waterloo, Ont. area is what led to this acquisition. The purchase wasn’t uncovered until January 6, 2006.
(added 9/20, 2006)
I’ve written a full blog post about this acquisition – Google’s Quiet Acquisition of Transformic, Inc.
Tranformic was a small company, focusing upon building search engines for the deep web, where major commercial search engines had difficulties crawling, and had developed a site that showed off their technology in Everyclassified.com, which collected information from hundreds of classifieds sites on the web. The main reason for this purchase appears to have been to get Dr. Alon Halevy, the man behind Transformic, to work at Google.
Android (August 2005), software for mobile telephones
Founded by Andy Rubin, accompanied by Andy McFadden, Richard Miner, and Chris White.
Akwan Information Technologies (July 2005)
Google Press Release: Google Continues International Expansion, Opens Offices in Latin America
The office in Sao Paulo, Brazil follows the acquisition of Brazil’s Akwan Information Technologies Inc. in July of this year. Akwan has become Google’s R&D centre in Brazil.
An example of the type of research being conducted by the people at Akwan: Distributed Processing of Conjunctive Queries (pdf)
Dodgeball (May 2005), social-networking software for mobile devices
Urchin is a web site analytics solution used by web site owners and marketers to better understand their users’ experiences, optimize content and track marketing performance.
A system and method for analyzing traffic to a website is provided that is based on log files and that uses both server-side and client-side information channeled through one source to create a more complete picture of activity to a website. In one preferred embodiment, a sensor code is embedded in a requested web page, and sends information back to the web server where the website resides. This additional information is logged along with normal requests.
A system and method for monitoring and analyzing Internet traffic is provided that is efficient, completely automated, and fast enough to handle the busiest websites on the Internet, processing data many times faster than existing systems.
The system and method of the present invention processes data by reading log files produced by web servers, or by interfacing with the web server in real time, processing the data as it occurs. The system and method of the present invention can be applied to one website or thousands of websites, whether they reside on one server or multiple servers.
The multi-site and sub-reporting capabilities of the system and method of the present invention makes it applicable to servers containing thousands of websites and entire on-line communities. In one embodiment, the system and method of the present invention includes e-commerce analysis and reporting functionality, in which data from standard traffic logs is received and merged with data from e-commerce systems.
The system and method of the present invention can produce reports showing detailed “return on investment” information, including identifying which banner ads, referrals, domains, etc. are producing specific dollars.
Where 2 Technologies (October 2004), Internet mapping
Brothers Lars Eilstrup Rasmussen and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen are from Google’s Sydney office, and have been actively involved in the patent applications behind Google Maps, and using Geographic location information. Before then, they were with Where 2 technologies. See: Take browsers to the limit: Google, and Google Maps and AJAX vs WithStyle – the Australian Legacy.
Keyhole’s technology combines a multi-terabyte database of mapping information and images collected from satellites and airplanes with easy-to-use software.
Google Inc. today announced it acquired Picasa, Inc., a Pasadena, Calif.-based digital photo management company
Ignite Logic (May 2004), design of turn key legal sites. Puzzling acquisition, though founder David Ferguson has an interesting past.
Genius Labs (October 2003), Biz Stone was Genius Labs. He is no longer with Google.
Sprinks (October 2003), paid advertising
Kaltix (September 2003), Research on personalized search, from Taher Haveliwala, Glen Jeh, and Sepandar Kamvar.
Google Press Release: Google Acquires Kaltix Corp.
Kaltix Corp. was formed in June 2003 and focuses on developing personalized and context-sensitive search technologies that make it faster and easier for people to find information on the web.
A system and a method that manages a user query by a single interaction between a server and a client.
A plurality of clients send queries for search results to a server. The server receives these queries and performs multiple searches to generate multiple sets of search results.
These sets of search results are ranked, consolidated and passed to the requesting client. The client stores these multiple sets of search results. The client then displays these search results in accordance to the boundary defined by the user.
This boundary defines the portions of the search results that the user desires to view. The user may re-define the boundary. The client identifies the search results corresponding to the boundary and displays them.
Applied Semantics (April 2003), contextual advertising
Google Press Release: Google Acquires Applied Semantics
Applied Semantics’ products are based on its patented CIRCA technology, which understands, organizes, and extracts knowledge from websites and information repositories in a way that mimics human thought and enables more effective information retrieval.
The present invention is directed to a system in which a semantic space is searched in order to determine the semantic distance between two locations. A further aspect of the present invention provides a system in which a portion of semantic space is purchased and associated with a target data set element which is returned in response to a search input. The semantic space is created by a lexicon of concepts and relations between concepts. An input is associated with a location in the semantic space. Similarly, each data element in the target data set being searched is associated with a location in the semantic space. Searching is accomplished by determining a semantic distance between the first and second location in semantic space, wherein this distance represents their closeness in meaning and where the cost for retrieval of target data elements is based on this distance.
The present invention relies on the idea of a meaning-based search, allowing users to locate information that is close in meaning to the concepts they are searching. A semantic space is created by a lexicon of concepts and relations between concepts. A query is mapped to a first meaning differentiator, representing the location of the query in the semantic space. Similarly, each data element in the target data set being searched is mapped to a second meaning differentiator, representing the location of the data element in the semantic space. Searching is accomplished by determining a semantic distance between the first and second meaning differentiator, wherein this distance represents their closeness in meaning. Search results on the input query are presented where the target data elements that are closest in meaning, based on their determined semantic distance, are ranked higher.
Neotonic Software (April 2003), email customer support Case Study from neotonic, about how they helped Google in the days before the purchase. Google also hired David Jeske, who was the co-founder of Neotonic and the former director of engineering for eGroups.
Pyra Labs (February 2003), editor of Blogger, blogging platform
Outride (September 2001), a Xerox PARC spinoff, data-mining and semantic analysis. See: Personalized Search: A contextual computing approach may prove a breakhrough in personalized search efficiency (pdf) and Personalized Search
Google Press Release: Google Acquires Technology Assets of Outride Inc.
Outride, a spin-off from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), was created to apply state-of-the-art model-based relevance technology to the challenge of online information retrieval.
Deja.com (February 2001), Purchase of their usenet archive and other assets, which become Google Groups.
Google Press Release: Google Acquires Usenet Discussion Service and Significant Assets from Deja.com