You know that rumor about Microsoft shopping Bing to Facebook? It sparked lots of speculation about whether that would be a good move for both companies. Turns out it did happen, according to a report in the New York Times citing executives who made overtures to Facebook on behalf of Microsoft — but without the effort being sanctioned by CEO Steve Ballmer.
This happened more than a year ago, according to the report. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declined to discuss the matter, telling those Microsoft executives that the company had too much else to focus on. Neither Google nor Facebook spokespeople would comment officially on the matter.
The report cements the suspicion that some within Microsoft, at least, are not convinced of Bing’s strategic importance to the company, though Ballmer has long said Microsoft is in the search game for the long haul. In Microsoft’s most recent earnings report, it said its online services division, which houses Bing and AdCenter, brought in revenue of $747 million, resulting in a loss of $479 million. Still, that was roughly $300 million better compared to the previous year, when it lost $776 million.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s most recent S-1 shows a slowing of its meteoric growth, causing speculation about what it needs to do — get into the search advertising business, perhaps? — to resume a growth trajectory that will satisfy investors.
Though Google definitely sees Facebook as a threat, with the launch of Google+ largely seen as a reaction to that threat, Microsoft has had a much cozier relationship with Facebook. Earlier this week, the companies announced a $550 million patents deal, in which Microsoft sold 650 patents to Facebook. Interestingly, those patents will help Facebook protect itself from a lawsuit filed by Yahoo, another Microsoft partner. (This was the original topic of the New York Times story, and The Business Insider called out the acknowledgement of Microsoft trying to sell Bing.)
Back in 2007, Microsoft made a $240 million investment in Facebook. At that time, there was much speculation about Microsoft acquiring Facebook.