6 companies Google should buy right now

Firms that should be at the top of Google's shopping list

4. FriendFeed

FriendFeed already knows a lot about Google: four of its founders previously worked for the big G, designing and launching products including Google Maps, Gmail and Google Groups. The service, often described as the Google of social networking, is a kind of Swiss Army Knife for the social web: you can use it to publish stuff, you can use it to have conversations with people, you can use it like Twitter, and you can use it as a search engine. The beauty of FriendFeed is that it grabs content from all the big sites you probably use already - YouTube, Digg, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and so on - and wraps it all up in a Google-style simple interface.

FriendFeed wouldn't come cheap - its founders are smart people who know just how big a deal their service could become - but would it be worth the money? We think so. Google rules Search 1.0, where we look for content in web pages, but FriendFeed has an excellent chance of ruling Search 2.0 - that is, finding social media from a myriad of sites. If we're right, that's where the money's going to be. And where there's money to be made, Google is never far behind.

5. WordPress

With Blogger largely the preserve of spammers, lunatics and your gran, the real blogging action is happening on WordPress. With 4.5 million blogs on WordPress.com and a further 5.6 million active WordPress.org users, it's a hugely popular platform - and it's also a serious traffic attractor. According to WordPress, "over 200 million people visit one or more WordPress.com blogs every month, and they view over a billion pages on those blogs." Blogger is busier, but WordPress traffic is of better quality with users including giant corporations and national newspapers.

The success of WordPress forced Google to update Blogger after a long period of inactivity, but buying it would be even better for Blogger: Google could easily upgrade its existing blogs to the WP platform, stick WordPress into Chrome (WordPress.org already takes advantage of Google Gears) and take its web publishing activities up a notch. WordPress would be a good fit with Google's various Apps, it's a damn sight better than either Blogger or Google Sites, and its plug-in and widget architecture provides a great opportunity for integration with Google's various other services, from Analytics to Calendar.

6. Last.fm

Google bought YouTube to give it a strong position in video search - the acquisition was all about the search and ultimately targeted advertising, not the content - and Last.fm would give Google a kind of PageRank for music. As with Valve, acquiring Last.fm would give Google access to enormous amounts of demographic information and data on trends that it could flog to marketers, and of course it's another way for Google to offer a search and advertising platform.

The big problem would be persuading Last.fm's owners, broadcasting giant CBS, to part with it. CBS paid $280million for Last.fm in 2007, when it had just 15 million listeners; now, it has 21 million regular users and an estimated 19 million more using it via website widgets and applications. It's a rare success story in the otherwise beleaguered music industry.

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