September 20, 2010
Google bought Slide in early August, marking the first splash in a series of quick social gaming acquisitions.
Slide is the company behind a number of popular social games like SuperPoke! Pets, Rock Riot, Top Friends and FunSpace. But it's a prime example of how fickle social popularity can be: Once Facebook's top outside app maker, Slide now badly trails Zynga, the field's new leading light.
Still, Slide has a well-established presence on Facebook and other social networks -- something Google hasn't been able to achieve on its own.
A week after buying Slide, Google purchased virtual currency company Jambool.
Jambool makes a product called Social Gold, a kind of fake money that game developers can sell online. Users can trade their virtual currency to buy in-game items that help them advance in the game.
Social Gold competes with Facebook's Credits. One of the big questions for competitors in the social networking field is how their business can be monetized, so Jambool -- whose business is money -- is nice asset for Google to have.
The next social networking purchase for Google was fashion store Like.com.
Like.com owns Weardrobe, an online community where users share fashion tips and outfit combinations with friends and the public. Like.com's main function is to give users the ability to search for items like shoes, watches and purses using an image recognition engine.
Google, which hasn't made the headway many expected it to with e-commerce, may have gotten a two-for-one. With Like.com's image engine technology, it can improve the company's ability to let users easily find the items they want to purchase. And with Weardrobe, Google is getting an established community where users to help each other make shopping decisions.
In the week following Google's Like.com purchase, it bought Angstro, a social networking search application.
Angstro's applications can help users create a social network address book, find Facebook photos, and improve their caller ID by using their social networking contacts, among other things.
Google recently partnered with Twitter to let users search all tweets in real-time. Angstro's apps could be useful to Google, particularly in its Android mobile platform, to help users find and access data from across all of their online social identities.
At the end of August, Google bought SocialDeck, a social gaming company behind Color Connect, Pet Hero and Shake & Spell.
In addition to Facebook, SocialDeck offers games on a number of mobile platforms, including BlackBerry OS and Apple's iOS.
Google will probably focus on enhancing SocialDeck's Android offerings, but the others won't disappear: Google is happy to sell ads on any number of platforms. The deal plays into two markets Google wants to expand in: social networking and muilti-platform mobile ad sales.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has hinted that a partnership announcement with social gaming giant Zynga is forthcoming.
The two already seem to be pretty cozy: TechCrunch reported that Google has sunk at least $100 million into the company, which now has a user base of 268 million -- five times its nearest competitor.
Zynga is currently one of the hottest startups in Silicon Valley, and unlikely to sell itself outright. But if Google can hook up with Zynga and piggyback on its social media footprint, it will give itself a big jumpstart for its social networking efforts.
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