The news that Facebook has bought FriendFeed took us by surprise: we thought that if anyone was going to buy the lifestreaming service it would be Google. However, the move makes a lot of sense for both parties.
Most of the reports we've seen about the deal have focused on the battle between Facebook and Twitter, and there's no doubt that FriendFeed will enable Facebook to integrate people's tweets with the rest of the Facebook news feed. But we don't think Twitter is the target here. We think Facebook's gunning for Google.
Forget about FriendFeed's technology for a minute and take a look at its people. FriendFeed's founders are Bret Taylor, Paul Buchheit, Jim Norris and Sanjeev Singh, and their CVs are impressive to say the least.
Between them the four men were instrumental in the design, development and success of a few obscure little services including Google Maps, Gmail, AdSense, Google Local, Google Groups… you get the idea.
And the rest of the FriendFeed team is just as talented. For one tenth of the money it would have cost to buy Twitter, Facebook has got itself some of the best brains in the social networking business - brains who are used to building things to a Google scale.
The first thing you're likely to see is a change to Facebook's news feeds. FriendFeed does essentially the same thing in a much, much better way, so sticking that into Facebook is a no-brainer. Factor in search, which will enable you to see what people are talking about in real time, and you've got the Google of the real-time world.
We imagine FriendFeed will continue as a stand-alone site, but the action's going to be happening inside Facebook - and with more than 200 million users, Facebook's search is going to be indexing an enormous amount of content.
Search, of course, means advertising - and that's where the online money is. It's why Microsoft launched Bing, and it's why Google is unveiling a major revamp of its search technology to make indexing faster and search results more relevant. To date, search engines haven't done a great job of indexing real-time stuff - such as people's Twitter messages - but that's coming, and by getting in early with FriendFeed Facebook has stolen a march on its rivals.
So is Facebook now a Twitter killer? Far from it. If anything, the Facebook/FriendFeed deal is great for the micro-messaging service: now that FriendFeed has been snapped up, Microsoft and Google are going to be seriously thinking about a Twitter acquisition. Twitter might say that it's not up for sale, but everything has a price - and thanks to Facebook, that price has just gone through the roof.