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Google buys Meebo (meebo.com)
294 points by jcdavis on June 4, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

One thing no outlet has reported is that everyone except business development and select engineers were laid off as a result of the deal.

This all comes from someone who left Meebo recently and is still close with people that work there.

Not sure exactly how many, but it sounds like it was a good number.

Note: I said it was the majority, that's what my friend made it sound like, but I'm not sure.. will update once I find out

Meebo laid off most of its staff as part of this deal?

Most might be too strong, but it seems pretty bad. The chicago office is gone as a result of the acquisition I'm told.

Reports are starting to roll in about other locations


Did they have any engineering folks outside the bay area?

I thought they were headquartered in Austin for some reason. Am I thinking of some other chat company?

Meebo was based out of Mountain View, right next to Red Rock Cafe.

There are engineers in New York and some remote engineers

That sounds pretty bad if true.

Is there a point of working for a startup if there's no financial upside, only the downside?

Not being in the US, I'm curious if people getting laid-off from funded startups get severance packages.

They're not getting laid off by a startup now they're getting laid off by Google. They likely get a severance. In CA at least if they're laying off a significant portion it's cosidered a plant closing which should give everyone about 6 months severance.

I contracted for these guys, I bailed out of their full-time offer to follow my contract for a reason.

To me this makes sense as Meebo has really transformed themselves from a "chat" company to an "advertising toolbar" company.

They (for better or worse) absolutely dominate the annoying popup toolbar at the bottom of a website market.

Ex: http://www.slate.com

I grabbed the Meebo chat app for iOS the day it came out, and it was a great, free alternative to existing options like IM+ and Beejive. It had a few minor bugs though, like tapping 'send' was actually tapping Return, so if your cursor was in the middle of a line it would send a message which was broken in half where your cursor was.

They fixed it after a few months, but you could very obviously see that what was happening was it was inserting the newline, and then they were removing it, and then the message was getting sent. It was an obvious hack and it made me feel like they really didn't understand how to make a good iOS app, and didn't care enough to do it properly.

Meanwhile, they started adding other 'features'. They added the ability to 'check in' to a website, like foursquare for web pages. Except it only worked inside of the built-in browser in Meebo, which meant it only worked for links that your friends sent you via IM while you were on your phone. How much time did they spend implementing a feature that I can't imagine anyone ever using instead of adding actual functionality to their app (or fixing the constant crashes I got all the time)?

That was the point where I basically wrote Meebo off. Sure, they probably couldn't make money providing a free chat service, but they could have branched out in other areas, rather than the idiotic-seeming stuff they've been working on lately.

That toolbar is godawful, and I have no idea how they managed to sign up so many companies to display it. I mean.. it's not like they had access to all these advertisers since they were primarily a chat company. It's something that can be duplicated by any one of us. What gives?

It's the result of an incredible bd and ad sales team. If you look at the senior team, esp in sales, it's a lot of very senior CNET veterans who took along most of their experience and contacts from CNET to Meebo.

This is not something duplicated easily.

Yes, but it probably didn't need most of the original functionality of meebo either. It was essentially a chat bar for webpages...

That is a story I've been waiting to read for some time now. AFAIK, it doesn't exist yet.

Most of their initial toolbar customers came from the Time Warner strategic investment. Publishers are so hungry for revenue, they tend to flock to guaranteed revenue, which Meebo was likely using to get additional sites on board. I'm guessing that we'll see the end of those toolbars within six months, as Google will have no interest in selling that ad format. They're already rumored to be laying off all te salespeople.

Adblock meebocdn.com and they go away.

I'm not sure if I'm adding meebocdn.com to my blacklist correctly. But I was able to block Slate's toolbar through the AdBlock interface...

I believe using the ghostery extension automatically blocks it as well.

edit for links:

link for Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/mlomiejdfkolichcfl...?

link for Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ghostery/

I have never seen that before - maybe my brain just tunes it out.

Adblock usually blocks it, for what that's worth.

Ghostery blocks it too.

Source: http://www.ghostery.com/apps/meebo_bar

That toolbar has improved a lot since I last saw it, it used to make the websites all jerky and difficult to browse.

Very strange: the bar only shows up for me in Chrome, no trace of it in Safari (whether or not AdBlocker is enabled, whether or not I'm logged into Slate).

Ahh! Long enough ago that I totally forgot about it, I installed the Block Meebpo Toolbar userscript in NinjaKit

There was a couple of steps in between I think - didn't they also do some sort of news/feed syndication or "following"? Till Gmail and Google Talk became popular, Meebo was my MSN replacement of choice.

What the heck is wrong with ICQ as an "MSN replacement"? If the new thing (MSN) sucks, and the old thing (ICQ) still works, why go to a NEWER thing?

Now, I have no trouble understanding why you'd eventually go to gChat; it's clearly superior.

I meant "MSN client replacement" - not having to install software and having chat logs everywhere was an advantage at the time.

Does the toolbar even allow chatting with site staff like Olark? (seemingly no) whilst a useful thing to do right now: Olark is also expensive.

17 bucks a month is expensive? I find olark to be inexpensive and effective. No I am not an employee, just a happy customer.

$44 per month for more than 1 operator, which you'll need unless you sleep next to your PC.

I met the Meebo team at SXSW in 2008 and, being the uppity entrepreneur, I asked if I could stay in touch with them...

Even though they were super busy, Seth would take a call over the phone when my startup was about to get acquired or when we were trying as hard as we could to raise money in late 2008.

When I was playing a game of Underground Assassins in 2011, nobody knew my name. So they went by my t-shirt's logo - Meebo. Honestly, six years after they began, people still remembered their logo.

I still find it amazing how Meebo for a period of time inhabited the social consciousness. Like art, I'm glad to have experienced it, and being in the bay area, felt a little closer to it.

Off topic, but what is underground assassins? Google is not helping.

Sorry, typed in haste. Undercover Assassins, see this: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/12/...

I'm guessing - and I could be wrong - but based on the fact that its a real world thing - its likely the game where you get a bunch of people to play at hunting/assassinating each other as they go about their daily life.

The objective is to tag enemy players and become the last player standing.

I've played assassins before, which I think is what you're describing. I'm wondering if Underground Assassins is a variation on the game, or just a different name.

Not good news. I do hope Google leaves the Meebo name intact so it's easy to block their garbage with Adblock.

I assume shortly we'll be seeing new postings from Google on what new personal information they'll be adding to the Google brain from Meebo.

I loved Meebo back in 2005 but they became annoying as hell with their toolbar. I always felt that product was more of a "solution in search of a problem".

Anyways, I'm happy for Meebo team. I'm following them for a while and they seem to be really good guys. Especially, their founding team.

There was a lot of Meebo coverage on TC over the years: http://techcrunch.com/tag/meebo/page/5/

Early rounds were rumoured to be done at $200m valuations so with liquidation preferences I'm not sure how much this really leaves on the table after the investors are paid.

Meebo definitely went through its nine lives. I wonder what Google was trying to acquire through this purchase.

The talent. Meebo was started by Stanford grads who demonstrated their talent in developing a product and a launching company. It'd be a safe way to hire a few competent engineers, and I doubt the acquisition price contains much goodwill.

The talent. Meebo was started by Stanford grads...

Can we please get over this dopey fixation on big-name elite schools?

Unfortunately tons of firms put a huge value in this. Try getting a high level rockstar-ninja-badass (lol) engineer job, especially at a bay area startup, without some sort of pedigree from a named institution. Its bullshit, but reality.

Google used to, might still, place a degree from a top-tier institution as the first requirement in upper level job postings.

> Unfortunately tons of firms put a huge value in this. Try getting a high level rockstar-ninja-badass (lol) engineer job, especially at a bay area startup, without some sort of pedigree from a named institution. Its bullshit, but reality.

I've worked at or (or received employment offers from) quite a few "name brand" Bay Area technology companies, have received recruitment email/etc. from many more, despite going to a university most haven't heard of.

Silicon Valley is much more meritocratic than Wall Street: if you can't pass a coding interview, the name on your diploma will not help you. A name on your diploma might make it easier to get interviews lined up as a student, but undergraduate research, open source contributions, referrals from other employees, are much more useful for that purpose.

That's not to say SV is without its own brand of homogeneity: ironically, whenever I am on Stanford campus, I am amazed at how much more diverse it is compared to the rest of Palo Alto.

So... the fact that Google also has some Stanford background doesn't seem pertinent to you? What an unusual knee-jerk reaction.

Yes, it is pertinent. But that doesn't change the fact that it's a really dumb way to evaluate the "talent" of a person or company.

Elite schools tend to have elite people. Funny how that works.

Stanford is not an elite school, it's a status school with what many say is a huge amount of grade-inflation. Elite schools are ones like RPI, Bard, various sports schools (Michigan/Okla, UNC, etc.), and so on. The only "elite" quality Stanford has is its location and the presence of a few celebrities.

I doubt the talent behind meebo is worth $200M. I'd say that it's more a bailout of the investors.

The price is rumored to be $100M. Google and others regularly pay $2-3M per engineer... More for kickass devs/leaders. And certainly they'd probably pay a premium for larger dev teams. In other words, they'd rather buy 1 company with 25 engineers for $100M than lots of tiny companies (due to the corp dev overhead of buying a company).

Ah yes the old "You are so good at building things people want we will throw buckets of money at you. Oh, all that stuff you built nobody wants that shit, throw it away." reason.

Guessing: Meebo has been trying to make money via their behavioral targeting dataset. Meebo sees browsing activity of users via sites that embed their javascript and also through the plugins they get people to install in their browsers. It's a similar dataset to clearspring, who also do bt stuff. In 2011, Meebo bought mindset media who build psychometrics (eg [1]), with the idea of marrying psychometric targeting with meebo's bt dataset. Thus meebo's value to google: experience building and selling psychometrics; and a client list for psychometric targeting. Psychometrics is another targeting layer that would be sold in Google+ alongside dems targeting.

[1] http://www.mindset-media.com/marketers/profile/

Not too sure. I used to contract for Meebo (I did so for about six months) and I'm kinda puzzled as to what they were looking for.

I was expecting this or a shut-down announcement soon. Meebo has never been able to provide something valuable to enough people to become a going concern.

I don't think that's true. They had a lot of people using their messenger client.

More to do with mistakes and execution. Why did they take $70m in funding? That's a ridiculous amount of investment to take.

Why couldn't they monetize that amount of eyeballs?

Or go beyond monetizing eyeballs. Turn it into a live chat service, so visitors to your website can instantly communicate with you. Or do what Chatterous did and let people create custom IM group chats. Maybe they did these things and I didn't notice, but anything seems better than 'Let's put a toolbar at the bottom of other peoples' sites!'

Yeah, they had that back in 2007. Meebo bar appeared in Dec 2009.

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meebo#Timeline

They went after the low hanging fruit, I imagine.

I know they had a lot of users, but I don't see how they were making money off the client and they had a lot of employees.

Maybe the spam thing was working for them but I don't think they would have folded if so.

Sure. They had way too much investment, way too many employees, and didn't seem to have much of a handle on making money by the looks of things.

It'll be spun as a success "Acquired by Google yay!", but seems a pretty resounding failure to me.

They have now announced shutdown of the messenger. http://www.meebo.com/support/article/175/

it's very difficult to monetize eyeballs without intent. If you're going to do that, you'd better do what fb did, and generate a fuckton [1] of pageviews.

[1] Definition: lots and lots -- 1T / month in summer 2011 [2]

[2] http://mashable.com/2011/08/24/facebook-1-trillion-pageviews...

Depends. It's easy to make a comfortable amount of money even without intent, but the problem comes when you have massive outgoings (office, staff, etc), and tons of investment, where making a good amount of revenue isn't good enough.

My first full-time job offer as I was wrapping up college in 2007 was from Meebo. At the time, they were about 12 employees.

I didn't realize it at the time, as it was my first time going through the interview/offer dance, but having much more experience with these things now (from both sides of the process), I can honestly say it ranks as the best I've ever heard of.

a) The technical portion of the interview was the best I've ever been through. It culminated in them asking me to set aside 4 hours to come into their office and work alongside them (asking questions if I needed to), writing an HTTP server in C.

I almost shat my pants when I heard the question, but to this day its the most rewarding technical interview of my life. I started off with a problem I wasn't sure I could sove in the allotted time, I _built_ something, and it _worked_. (Well, it mostly worked. There was one elusive bug I couldn't figure out that day. I had to leave because of another commitment, but I promised to come back the next day and fix it. When I got back the next day, a senior Meebo engineer had spent 3 hours debugging my code until he figured out the problem. We code reviewed my code line-by-line as a wrap-up to the interview.)

b) The non-technical portion of the interview was the best I've ever been through. They were very concerned about the ever-elusive "culture fit", and the entire team made an effort to get to know me, taking me out to meals, etc. I met all three of the co-founders (Seth, Elaine, and Sandy), all of whom I'm sure were busy trying to build a product and grow a company, but they were incredibly warm, genuinely interested in getting to know me, and generous with their time.

c) They gave me a great offer. For a fresh-out-of-college student with not much real work experience, both the salary and the equity portions of my offer were extremely generous. I didn't even have to negotiate. At the time, Seth explained they didn't want to go through a contentious negotiation process, so they were opening off with a generous offer and it wasn't really open to negotiation. It was, indeed, a generous offer. (Five years of experience later, and I'm making less money, adjusted for inflation, than Meebo offered me as a fresh-out-of-school untried new hire.)

d) The post-offer process was the best I've been through. At the time, I knew nothing about startups, stock options, VC, etc. I didn't even know how much I didn't know. At his own initiative, Seth (the CEO!), took the time to explain the equity portion of my offer. The offer included a number of options and a strike price (standard), but unprompted told me about the other numbers I should be concerned with: total shares outstanding, fully diluted % stake, preference multiples, etc. There's much more transparency about this stuff today (blogs, etc), but at the time no one else explained this stuff to you (and as a stupid college student, you wouldn't know to ask). Even today, in a much more competitive hiring environment, I hear about companies that tell experienced engineers (who know what they're negotiating) that certain numbers which are essential to understanding an equity offer (like total number of shares outstanding) are "confidential".

I ended up turning down the offer, but I have enormous admiration and respect for Seth, Sandy, Elaine, and the whole team at Meebo. Congratulations on your many successes over the years, and I hope to continue seeing great things from you in the future.

what offer did you think was more attractive than what they offered?

Ha! It's a long story. Let's just say I made a lot of mistakes over the course of the next few years.

You live, you learn.

YOU TURNED IT DOWN?! Didn't see that twist to the story coming..

This makes me sad for the future of their chat client. The toolbar may suck, but their IOS client rocks. It synchronizes with their web chat interface, so that you may switch between conversations on mobile/desktop.

I don't think that (even) more developers for G+ will solve ... anything.

No, but more users might.

buying a user base + migrating them to another platform is a very slippery slope (privacy and PR wise). think it's mostly about developers.

Nothing G+ won't try at this point ;)

G+ is still pretty damn young. I'm sceptical they can upset facebook, but it's not as if it's a ghostland.

Oh look, the tired "G+ sucks/is desperate" meme.

The "G+ is dead/dying" canard again? Really?

Honest question - is it not?

No. I'm just as tired of seeing it repeated here as I was hearing people repeat "Twitter is dumb and useless and not going anywhere" 3 years ago. Just because you don't use it or subscribe to people that use it, doesn't mean the rest of us didn't take the time to actually utilize it.

People said this about Wave as well.

I'm not convinced. I tried google+, I was really impressed with the UI. I used it for a few days, then a few weeks later I suddenly remembered it existed. I don't think I'm alone.

Presumably they still count me as a 'user', even though I haven't used Google+ for ages.

Why do you care if they include you in their user count? Why does it bother you?

I love Google+. I love the UI. I love the interaction I have with the people I follow. They post good content, it's well featured, it's fast on mobile (which is something its competitors flatly can not claim) and the Circles model works really well. For me.

Funny, I also got a shockingly huge amount of value out of Wave. It was for very specific group-school-project sorts of things, but it has been irreplacable in terms of simplicity and strange overlapping feature set. In fact, as others have noted, many features that people wish to see in a "futuristic email 2.0" were embodied by Google Wave.

I guess I reject the notion that since you don't like/use it, no one does.

"I guess I reject the notion that since you don't like/use it, no one does."

No one's really said that. People say no one uses G+ because, relatively speaking, almost no one uses G+. It may be awesome, it may be the greatest thing since sliced bread and in fact almost every review of the UI has lauded it from what I've seen but the flip side of this is tools without community are useless. Whether G+ is dying/dead/a ghost town is a real discussion that can take place.

Just because it's useful for some and some people use it doesn't mean it's not a failure as a Facebook competitor (which is what we're measuring here, not whether anyone is using it). It's disingenuous to count me as a user when they compare themselves to FB because I and probably most of their other users haven't used it in months. In contrast, a large percentage of FB's user count uses Facebook all the time.

> "Why do you care if they include you in their user count? Why does it bother you?"

It bothers me if they're being dishonest. Tell me how many people actively shared things on Google+ yesterday. Telling me how many people have ever used Google+ in the past isn't useful, and is going to vastly distort peoples perception.

> "I guess I reject the notion that since you don't like/use it, no one does."

Sure, valid point. I'd reply that out of all my facebook friends, a few tried google+, and none actively use it that I know of. So it's not just me.

It's also telling that you got a huge amount of value out of Wave as well as plus. Perhaps Google+ isn't that much different to Wave... in which case it's doomed.

Release Wave -> Failing -> Buy Etherpad -> Wave fails

Release Google+ -> Failing -> Buy Meebo -> Google+ fails

Don't get me wrong, I love Google. But I can see history repeating itself here...

> Release Wave -> Failing -> Buy Etherpad -> Wave fails

Except etherpad technology is actively being used in google docs, maybe more than it has ever been used in wave, and docs is quite far from dead

no, just that the G+ product issues can not be solved with more developers. more developers do not fix a product.

it says nothing about the usage nr. of G+. but that the G+ has product issues is clear as day, even to - most - fanboys.

Nice, generic and overenthusiastic post-acquisition blog post. They'll likely be shutdown within a few months.

> Thank you all for coming along for the ride!

Reads like a farewell note to me, not very encouraging.

I like meebo, I always have and still use it (for AIM). I consider myself a fan even though I used to hate: "They got 15 million for online instant messaging?"

I really liked how in the early days they would show off their growth, new office/employees, etc. when you logged in. It subconsciously acted as a source of inspiration.

I honestly did not see that coming. I was a regular user of meebo way back in 2006-2008 but I don't have a solid recollection as to why I left (now using imo.im).

I can only assume that the acquisition has something to do with Google Plus. Well, whatever it is for, I wish them good luck.

Looks like the site is getting crushed, I can't load the page.

There's probably whiskey involved.

Interesting... does Meebo have any patents? I really would've expected that Google could re-develop any Meebo technology for cheaper than an acquisition.

I'm guessing the relationship Meebo has built with its customer base is more important than the technology.

I've been using the (old) Meebo Messenger for years. I've never had the impression that they cared about its users a lot. There were no updates on the user interface since I began using it, they didn't add features that were highly requested on the feedback forums.

The toolbar thing is just... I don't know what that is. Looks useless to me.

Another thing, are there any good other web based multi messengers? I guess they will shut this down soon then?

I'm pretty sure they gave up on the messenger, and decided to put all their effort into the toolbar.

google is smart enough to realize that buying user bases doesnt work so it must be the meebo metrics and their client install base? over the last few years it seems like meebo has been struggling to make chat more of a commodity than it actually is, IMO and at this price its more like a push for investors. as for g+ - desperate times call for desperate measures.

I hope Meebo Messenger doesn't die. It's still the best web-based chat app, and the only way I still connect to my old MSN account.

For a moment I was thinking they bought Meego.

Meebo was useful, back then. Sometimes. But right now I am tempted to just respond with 'A/S/L?'.

I have no doubt that startups including meebo got talents. But how does google maintain its bar of engineer qualification? Or does it?

This is exactly the kind of talent and infrastructure you want for building WebRTC clients for Adsense. Think enhanced, in-browser, click-to-call ads. With video chat. Talk to other shoppers and customers, then talk directly with the restaurant or plumber.

Or they could join the Google+ team as G brings videoconferencing in-house.

I liked how they phrased the news in the body of the post -- "Meebo has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Google" -- more than how they phrased it in the headline: "Google is acquiring Meebo." I'd like to think that if I was selling a startup I would be master of my own destiny, too.


Google is scared of Pinterest.

What does Pinterest have to do with live chat?

Even less than either has to do with their current business model of being an advertising network through their toolbar.

This is the first I've heard about Pinterest. What do they have to do with Meebo?

"... has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Google!".

Does that mean that they are expecting some sort of regulatory review before it's a done deal or is it just standard speak?

Standard language. Mergers usually can't be completed until after certain regulatory reviews are complete. In the US, one of the most common (for larger deals) is HSR: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hart-Scott-Rodino_Antitrust_Imp...

If they are like a company I used to work for Meebo probably has a patent that reads as follows:

System and message for sending a message using a computer system

Google should definitely buy ICQ next.

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