September 30, 2008 / 8:27 AM / 9 years ago

Widget distributor Clearspring buys AddThis

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Clearspring Technologies, which helps website owners publish snippets on to other websites, said on Tuesday the company had agreed to acquire another widely used Web sharing site, AddThis LLC.

AddThis is the most popular U.S. service for sharing bookmarks or Web pages via e-mail or direct site-to-site links, according to data from Web measurement firm Hitwise Inc, outpacing Yahoo Inc’s Del.icio.us or ShareThis.com.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While seen by many as a simple feature rather than a business, AddThis icons appear on hundreds of thousands of websites including Walt Disney Co’s ABC, News Corp’s MySpace and Time Warner Inc’s Time.com. Clicking an orange button lets users share Web pages, videos, movie trailers, news, sports updates, games, music, across more than 80 social network, blogging or bookmarking services.

“AddThis is the biggest little thing on the Web,” Clearspring Chief Executive Hooman Radfar said in a phone interview.

The deal complements Clearspring’s own services that make it easy for website owners to publish their content on other Web sites. Using mini-applications known as widgets, Clearspring works to connect publishers with advertisers.

Unlike most major websites that seek to drive users through home pages, Clearspring operates a distributed network that allows upward of 143 million users to point and click to add information from other sites to personalized Web pages.

FRIENDS

Clearspring’s services connect publishers to advertisers and are popular with social network users on sites including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, MySpace, Netvibes, hi5 and Twitter who share tidbits of their lives with selected friends.

Chairman Ted Leonsis said in the same interview the power of Clearspring’s growing audience lay in the analytical tools the company offered advertisers to understand the shifting interests of Web users as they move across the Web.

“We think we can make what looks like a very disparate and one-off set of sites work more and more like a network because advertisers will see traffic data in the aggregate,” he said.

Charlene Li, an independent analyst with the recently formed Altimeter Group, said the appeal of both Clearspring and AddThis was that they disguise the technical complexity of Web tools like widgets and RSS syndication feeds.

“It’s RSS in a dress,” she said. “Nothing super fancy, just taking a website feed and making it very easy for users to spread among their friends.”

This differed from personalized Web sites such as Google Inc’s iGoogle, Yahoo’s MyYahoo or Netvibes which helped individual users keep track of information of interest to themselves, sites like Clearspring, and rival Mixx, encouraged users to share information with other users, Li said.

With AddThis, Clearspring said it would reach 200 million unique monthly users worldwide. While it was hard to compare to full-scale Web sites, this additional audience made it the seventh most visited property on the Web, Clearspring said.

Selected AddThis items are viewed nearly 15 million times a month. The merged company will deliver 20 billion page views per month, which the company said made Clearspring the most widely used set of content-sharing services on the Web.

Clearspring of McLean, Virginia has taken just over $35 million since it was founded in 2004, including an $18 million round led by New Enterprise Associates in May.

Active backers include the braintrust that led AOL in the 1990s, including Steve Case and Leonsis.

Editing by Sue Thomas

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