(Adds details, executive comments, background, byline)
By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO, July 19 Facebook Inc., the fast
growing Silicon Valley social networking site, said on Thursday
it has acquired Internet start-up, Parakey, run by two of the
co-creators of the popular Web browser, Mozilla Firefox.
Parakey, founded by Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt, is described
in a statement as a company seeking to bridge the gap between
the immediacy of information stored on local desktop computers
and the collaborative power of data stored on Web sites.
A notice on Parakey's site says the company hopes to makes
consumers lives easier: "Computers are frustrating. Creating
documents, finding files, sharing information -- why do
everyday things still seem so tedious and counterintuitive?"
Facebook was started in 2004 by then-undergraduate Mark
Zuckerberg as a social site for fellow Harvard University
students and was subsequently opened up to users of all ages.
The site's appeal stems from the controls it gives users over
who sees what personal details on each member's profile pages.
Hints of Parakey's product plans are available on the
company's Web site and in occasional interviews the two have
conducted over the past year. Details of their strategy point
to potential new product directions that Facebook, one of
Silicon Valley's most watched companies, could be taking.
Parakey and Facebook officials declined to be interviewed.
At age 14, Ross worked as an intern at pioneering Web
browser company Netscape Communications Corp., according to his
profile on Wikipedia. In 2003, he started as undergraduate
student at Stanford, but left to work in Silicon Valley.
After helping to develop Firefox as a non-commercial
variant of the Netscape browser, Ross, who is now 22, and
Hewitt, 29, his collaborator, turned to creating Web
development software such as Firebug, tools used by programmers
to create new features for Internet sites, Facebook said.
Firefox has been downloaded more than 300 million times by
computer users worldwide and is the second most widely used Web
browser behind Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.
In an interview with engineering news site IEEE Spectrum
last year, Ross described a plan to create what he called a
WebOS, or Web operating system, a central place where different
online resources might be found, similar to the way Microsoft
Windows pulls together computer resources into one view.
He described creating a protected space inside a Web
browser that allows users to store digital information and
share it with designated friends, family and colleagues. In
effect, the browser is designed to act as a social network
space rather than simply a personal information viewing tool.
Parakey's founders see their browser operating system as a
platform on which other applications could operate, similar in
some respects to the way Firefox allows plug-in software from
other developers to work inside it.
"Parakey apps (applications) are designed to be both useful
and social, a combination that is too rare today," according to
a job posting on the company's Web site seeking "Employee #3."
Their approach is very similar to how Facebook has recently
moved to let hundreds of independent developers build software
within the Facebook site, turning Facebook itself into a kind
of operating system for Internet users.
"The work they've done with Firefox and Parakey and their
approach to building products fit right in at Facebook,"
Zuckerberg, 23, Facebook's chief executive, said in a
(Additional reporting by Gina Keating in Los Angeles)