MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta has confirmed that the social network will acquire popular music discovery application iLike, marking the beleaguered company’s first big move towards reverting back to its roots as a niche site for music and entertainment.
On his first conference call as CEO of MySpace, Van Natta said iLike will remain separate from the company’s MySpace Music venture and that it hopes to extend iLike’s technology past music into other entertainment categories, such as gaming. iLike’s recommendation engine for new music was a feature that “could apply to a number of different of areas across MySpace,” he said.
Rumors about the deal were everywhere this week, with blogs speculating about its financial terms. Van Natta didn’t disclose them today, but many are putting the purchase price at around $20 million — a small sum relative to iLike’s rising popularity. There were also reports earlier this week that the deal hit some snags in the form of tax issues and iLike’s board, but Van Natta said it was “one of the smoothest-sailing deals I’ve been on.”
Though iLike is available on Bebo, Orkut and Hi5, it’s been widely viewed as one of Facebook’s application darlings and co-founders and brothers Ali and Hadi Partovi were also known to be close to Facebook executives. The rumors of the deal left many questioning what it meant for Facebook and how the leading social network would respond. iLike’s marriage with MySpace is clearly a blow to Facebook, however, since once its most popular applications is now in the hands of its rival. On the call, Van Natta said that “social networks will be thrilled” that MySpace will be working to “make iLike a richer experience in their environments.”
The application has amassed around 55 million users since its inception in 2006. iLike will remain headquartered in Seattle and its management team, including the Partovis, will continue to remain in that location.
Since Van Natta took the helm of MySpace this spring, his first shake-up at the social network involved cutting 30 percent of its U.S. workforce and two-thirds of its international staff. The number of unique U.S. visitors to Facebook eclipsed MySpace for the first time in May.