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Summary:

Facebook announced it is acquiring group text messaging start-up Beluga, snatching away what might have been a good pick-up for Google. Om recently talked about the opportunity for Google to gain ground on Facebook by focusing especially on synchronous interactions created by Beluga and other apps.

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Facebook just announced it is acquiring group text messaging start-up Beluga, snatching away what we here thought might be a good pick-up for Google. Om recently talked about the opportunity for Google to gain ground on Facebook by advancing its communications play, focusing especially on synchronous interactions created by Beluga and other apps that are location aware and allow people to share experiences.

Beluga, a group text messaging mobile app, is all about this kind of interactivity, with its ability to bring contacts together and let people share information and communications in real time. It was started ironically by three former Google employees, Ben Davenport, Lucy Zhang and Jonathan Perlow.

Here’s what Om said last month on the power of Beluga and other messaging services such as Yobongo.

What’s common between these two apps is their ability for synchronous messaging. This messaging can, in turn, become the under-pinning of what I earlier called interactions.

Ability to interact on an ongoing basis anywhere, any time and sharing everything, from moments to emotions – is what social is all about. From my vantage point, this is what Google should focus on. If not — you know it very well — Facebook will.

So there you have it, Facebook was in sync with what Om was saying and clearly gets where the game is going. It has a new robust messaging system that is more intimate than the traditional e-mail inbox. And now it’s making a play for a solid application that should extends its communications story into mobile.

Here’s a statement from Facebook:

We’re psyched to confirm that we’ve just acquired the talent and assets of Beluga, whose simple and elegant mobile apps blew us away as a solution to help groups of friends stay in touch on the move. We’re looking forward to welcoming co-founders Ben Davenport, Lucy Zhang and Jonathan Perlow, and we’re excited that the team will continue their vision for groups and mobile communication as part of Facebook.

For Beluga fans, Facebook said the service will continue “for now” with accounts and data preserved. More information about the future of Beluga will get announced in the coming weeks. It’s possible that Beluga may get discontinued as has happened to other Facebook acquisitions such as Drop.io. But for now, there’s still hope it will continue to live on.

The acquisition also further underscores the heat in the group text messaging space, something I wrote about last year with start-ups GroupMe and Fast Society. Expect to see a lot more news as those and other start-ups gear up for South by Southwest.

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  1. Now that they have a new toy to play with, and possibly break, can we have Drop.io back?

    –Ken

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    1. God I do miss drop.io

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      1. So do I! Dropbox and Box.net have their place, but they are not the same. I fear it will join the ranks of iView Media Pro (acquired by Microsoft) and Ecco (acquired by NetManage) – excellent programs that went MIA after acquisition.

        –Ken

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  2. [...] stepping up its efforts to become a key player in the way people communicate online. The first was the acquisition of Beluga, a group-messaging startup that we have written about a number of times here at GigaOM, and the [...]

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  3. [...] Facebook anuncia la compra de Beluga, un sistema de mensajería de texto para grupos con una interfaz muy elegante creado por tres ex-empleados de Google (Ben Davenport, Lucy Zhang y Jonathan Perlow), y avanza más aún hacia la idea de integrar toda la comunicación de un usuario en una bandeja de entrada única. El sistema, además de integrarse dentro de Facebook para suplementar la comunicación sincrona, se ofrecerá a páginas externas siguiendo la filosofía Facebook Connect de “hacer que el mundo fuera de Facebook funcione igual que dentro de Facebook”, del mismo modo que acaban de empezar a ofrecer la integración del sistema de comentarios. [...]

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  4. [...] original lustre in the face of competitors like Kik (which it tried clumsily to block), and with Facebook poised to get in on the group messaging game, the space is about to get quite [...]

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  5. [...] any further evidence that groups will be big for mobile apps in 2011, you need only look as far as Facebook’s recent acquisition of group-messaging app Beluga. Beluga provides users with the ability to chat privately, with the express aim of helping them [...]

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  6. [...] mobile messaging space, already hot with a number of start-ups on a roll and last week’s purchase of Beluga by Facebook, got a little hotter today with news that Kik has raised $8 million from Union Square Ventures, RRE [...]

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  7. [...] week, a flurry of announcements about IM, chat and group messaging services preceded the coming showdown at SXSW next week. [...]

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  8. Check ReChat (Android chat):
    - Facebook, Yahoo!®, Google Talk, Jabber/XMPP;
    - group chat (Yahoo!®, Google Talk, XMPP);
    - free SMS worldwide BETA (with replies for USA/Canada);
    - plain/bubble view, font packs, send image/video;

    Facebook features: upload image/video, send image/video, send message (as private event or wall post).
    Yahoo!® features: conferences (create/invite), add/remove contacts.
    Google Talk features: group chat, new email notification, unread emails w/o content.
    Jabber/XMPP features: rooms (create/invite), add/remove contacts.

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  9. [...] of defunct file-sharing service drop.io (a service that was a WWD favorite, until it was bought by Facebook and then discontinued), which also had drag-and-drop functionality and online galleries, although Minus doesn’t [...]

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