Google to buy Plaxo — and a new pal — for $200 million?

Plaxo, the contact-sharing service trying to reinvent itself as a social network, may have sold itself to Google for something close to $200 million. And if the rumor's true, I think the companies may be doing it out of friendship. One could bloviate endlessly here about industry consolidation, user-data portability, and so on — and I'm sure you'll read plenty of that. I think the real reason is much simpler. Brad Fitzpatrick, the LiveJournal founder now leading Google's social-network strategy, wants to work with Joseph Smarr, Plaxo's chief platform architect. I sat with the two at lunch at the Web 2.0 Summit last year, and they got along famously.

Plaxo and Google are working closely on its OpenSocial platform, and Smarr incorporated Fitzpatrick's recently developed friend-finding tool hours after its launch. Would Google spend a nine-digit sum to keep an engineer happy? Sure. It's pocket change for the search giant. An acquisition would also keep Smarr and the technology he's developed out of Mark Zuckerberg's hands at Facebook. And to think, I didn't even need to map a social graph to figure that out. (Photo by silverisdead)