Facebook buys start-up Parakey

Facebook, the fast-growing social networking site, on Thursday acquired Parakey, a small software company run by the engineering duo that created the popular Firefox web browser.

Facebook’s first-ever acquisition will bring Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt, Mozilla’s founders, into the Facebook team. Their software, which is still in development but is designed to act as a bridge “between information on the web and the desktop,” will be folded into Facebook.

The acquisition comes as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 23-year-old founder, is attempting to transform Facebook from a social networking site into a platform for web services.

“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 Mr Zuckerberg. “The work they’ve done with Firefox and Parakey and their approach to building products fit right in at Facebook.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Facebook’s move this year to open its site has set Silicon Valley buzzing as companies and entrepreneurs rush to build programmes that can tap into Facebook’s millions of interconnected users.

The excitement surrounding Facebook’s platform strategy and its rapid audience growth have prompted speculation that the site may seek an initial public offering.

Facebook, which has 30m users and is growing at about 3 per cent a week, is thought to have turned down a $1bn buy-out offer from Yahoo last year. Facebook’s backers, meanwhile, have said they believe the company could be worth as much as $8bn-$10bn.

Facebook said on Thursday that it would move to incorporate Parakey’s software into its platform strategy.

The Firefox web browser developed by Mr Ross and Mr Hewitt has emerged as a populer, open-source alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browers. The software, which launched in late 2004, has since been downloaded more than 300 million times.

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