Facebook Acquires Parakey

Facebook Acquires Parakey

July 19th, 2007

Just received word from Facebook that the company has made its first acquisition: Parakey, a startup founded by Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt, co-founders of Mozilla Firefox. Ross and Hewitt will join Facebook immediately to work on the Facebook Platform. From Facebook’s Brandee Barker:

“Blake and Joe built the Firefox web browser and then
turned to the developer community to build on top of the foundation
they’d established, not unlike what we’ve done with Facebook Platform,”
said Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. “The work they’ve
done with Firefox and Parakey and their approach to building products
fit right in at Facebook.”

Ross and Hewitt are best known as the co-founders of Firefox, which
has been downloaded more than 300 million times by people worldwide.
Hewitt went on to build popular web development tools such as Firebug.
In early 2006, Ross and Hewitt founded Parakey to build a platform
bridging the gap between information on the web and the desktop.

“Facebook Platform is finally making it easy to share experiences
with friends and family over the web, a goal Joe and I have worked
toward for years,” said Ross. “We are thrilled to join the most
innovative technology company in the industry.”

For the last two years Parakey has been developing a platform that
will synchronize your documents and files across web and desktop
applications. Ross spoke to IEEE Spectrum last November describing the service as a “Web operating system.”

Parakey is intended to be a platform for tools that can
manipulate just about anything on your hard drive—e-mail, photos,
videos, recipes, calendars. In fact, it looks like a fairly ordinary
Web site, which you can edit. You can go online, click through your
files and view the contents, even tweak them. You can also check off
the stuff you want the rest of the world to be able to see. Others can
do so by visiting your Parakey site, just as they would surf anywhere
else on the Web. Best of all, the part of Parakey that’s online
communicates with the part of Parakey running on your home computer,
synchronizing the contents of your Parakey pages with their latest
versions on your computer. That means you can do the work of updating
your site off-line, too. Friends and relatives—and hackers—do not have
direct access to your computer; they’re just visiting a site that
reflects only the portion of your stuff that you want them to be able
to see.

Parakey is Facebook’s first publicly announced acquisition. Parakey reportedly received seed funding from Doug Leone at Sequoia Capital in early 2005, but Facebook is not releasing financial terms of the transaction.

Facebook buys start-up Parakey for undisclosed sum

By Eric Auchard July 19,2007

Facebook Inc., the fast growing
Silicon Valley social networking site, said on Thursday it has
acquired Internet start-up, Parakey, run by two of the
co-creators of the popular Web browser, Mozilla Firefox.

Parakey, founded by Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt, is described
in a statement as a company seeking to bridge the gap between
the immediacy of information stored on local desktop computers
and the collaborative power of data stored on Web sites.

A notice on Parakey’s site says the company hopes to makes
consumers lives easier: "Computers are frustrating. Creating
documents, finding files, sharing information — why do
everyday things still seem so tedious and counterintuitive?"

Facebook was started in 2004 by then-undergraduate Mark
Zuckerberg as a social site for fellow Harvard University
students and was subsequently opened up to users of all ages.
The site’s appeal stems from the controls it gives users over
who sees what personal details on each member’s profile pages.

Hints of Parakey’s product plans are available on the
company’s Web site and in occasional interviews the two have
conducted over the past year. Details of their strategy point
to potential new product directions that Facebook, one of
Silicon Valley’s most watched companies, could be taking.

Parakey and Facebook officials declined to be interviewed.

At age 14, Ross worked as an intern at pioneering Web
browser company Netscape Communications Corp., according to his
profile on Wikipedia. In 2003, he started as undergraduate
student at Stanford, but left to work in Silicon Valley.

After helping to develop Firefox as a non-commercial
variant of the Netscape browser, Ross, who is now 22, and
Hewitt, 29, his collaborator, turned to creating Web
development software such as Firebug, tools used by programmers
to create new features for Internet sites, Facebook said.

Firefox has been downloaded more than 300 million times by
computer users worldwide and is the second most widely used Web
browser behind Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer.

In an interview with engineering news site IEEE Spectrum
last year, Ross described a plan to create what he called a
WebOS, or Web operating system, a central place where different
online resources might be found, similar to the way Microsoft
Windows pulls together computer resources into one view.

He described creating a protected space inside a Web
browser that allows users to store digital information and
share it with designated friends, family and colleagues. In
effect, the browser is designed to act as a social network
space rather than simply a personal information viewing tool.

Parakey’s founders see their browser operating system as a
platform on which other applications could operate, similar in
some respects to the way Firefox allows plug-in software from
other developers to work inside it.

"Parakey apps (applications) are designed to be both useful
and social, a combination that is too rare today," according to
a job posting on the company’s Web site seeking "Employee #3."

Their approach is very similar to how Facebook has recently
moved to let hundreds of independent developers build software
within the Facebook site, turning Facebook itself into a kind
of operating system for Internet users.

"The work they’ve done with Firefox and Parakey and their
approach to building products fit right in at Facebook,"
Zuckerberg, 23, Facebook’s chief executive, said in a



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