Google buys visual search Like.com
Founded in 2004, Like.com is a visual search engine that uses computer vision and machine learning technology to help users match shoes, clothes, jewelry and decor online and purchase them from retailers.
The user indicates the searched product and only details color, style, price, brand, etc. Like.com then offers imaged results matching the query. Links are provided so that the user can directly buy the product.
The idea is to help users find a product without having to know the brand or model, but simply mentioning a detail (color, shape, material).
Like.com also owns virtual fashion studio Couturious.com and Covet.com, as well as online personal shopper for fashion products.
Visual search to be integrated into Google's products?
Visual search is an area that Google is trying to dominate with its Android application called Google Goggles. Goggles allows users to snap a picture of any object and send it to Google's servers to identify the object and display relevant searches related to the item in question.
In 2005, Google failed to acquire Riya, a company specialized in image facial recognition and tagging for consumers. However, latest April Google bought visual art search engine Plink. This technology is now being used to fortify Google Goggles.
Tencent enters China's BBS market
Tencent is China's No.1 online game operator and operates famous IM service and portal QQ. Comsenz is a Beijing-based social-networking provider which is behind the Discuz online discussion board platform which is extremely popular in China and also other community products.
Over 80% Chinese sites are running its BBS and over 70% of the BBSs are built on Discuz system. Comsenz also developed some other free social software like UCHome with which you can easily set up a Facebook-like social network.
The consequences of the acquisition
Besides, all the search engine of the BBSs built on Discuz system will be powered by Tencent’s search engine Soso. This could help Soso improve its low market share in China's search market against its main competitors, namely Baidu and Google.
In addition, Tencent might integrate its services like QZone and its microblogging service into the Discuz platform. QQ number could also be used as login with all Discuz powered BBS, so that QQ number could become the truly ‘OpenID’ in Chinese web.
Tencent wants to remain China's biggest Internet company
BBS plays a very important part in Chinese eCommerce market since people often look for and exchange information about products. The question is now to see whether Tencent will take advantage of Discuz to promote its Paipai eCommerce platform in order to compete with Alibaba.
US technology giant Apple is planning to buy a Chinese online game developer Handseeing Information Technology.
Apple in negotiations with Handseeing
Apple has been in negotiations with the Chinese firm for a certain period of time and an announcement about a deal can be expected in September. The transaction might reach more than $150 million.
Apple's first acquisition in China?
However, other foreign firms are also interested in Handseeing and Apple could face fierce competition. Apple currently sells its popular iPhone through China's mobile operator Unicom. It opened last month a store in Shanghai, the second one in China.
Globally, the popularity of the iPhone and the iPad is largely due to the App Store (225,000 applications ranging from games to business tools are available for download).
Apple has built its Game Center technology, part of the iOS 4 operating system, as a "new social gaming network" and with Handseeing specializing in online gaming applications, the firm must nicely fit into Apple's business model.
China's online gaming market is soaring
The total number of online gamers in China is currently estimated at around 80 million or about a fifth of the country's total Internet community (China's online population recently hit 420 million).
Search engine giant Google has acquired semantic search start-up Metaweb.
Metaweb and its Freebase
Founded in 2005, Metaweb Technologies is a Californian-based company that develops Freebase, a free, massive, and collaboratively edited database of cross-linked data, in order to create a system for building the semantic web.
Freebase allows anyone to contribute, structure, search, copy and use data. The database has information on over 12 million things, including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, companies and more.
Metaweb actually helps site owners, bloggers, and developers make their sites richer. It enables them to easily and intelligently add content from across the Web. In this way, they can access third party content from leading sources like Twitter, Hulu, and many more.
Check out this video presenting Metaweb and its Freebase:
Google to improve search
By acquiring Metaweb, Google clearly wants to improve its own search offerings. Metaweb's Freebase contains millions of tagged data which will help make Google search smarter.
Understanding queries and web pages is necessary to improve search. As you know, the web isn’t only words, it’s information about things in the real world. Google wants to understand the relationships between real-world entities in order to deliver relevant information more quickly.
A few weeks ago, Dassault Systèmes acquired French search engine Exalead also involved in semantic processing.
Google has acquired airline IT and services provider ITA Software for $700M.
Google enters travel business
The acquisition enables the US search company to enter the travel information business.
Founded in 1996, ITA Software is a travel industry software company providing flight information to airlines, travel agencies, and online reservation systems.
Travel market is a huge segment of both search and eCommerce. ITA Software's acquisition should be a first step for Google to launch a travel search on its own. Nevertheless, Google said it didn't want to sell airlines tickets to customers but create "new flight search tools".
Bing to pay for Google's services?
Many travel actors rely on ITA Software: Microsoft's Bing, Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz and many more. Google's rivals even tried to counter the offer because they didn't want the company to be out of Google's hands. Too late, unless US regulators say that Google-ITA deal doesn't comply with US anti-trust law.
Google promised to honor its existing agreements with partners. In that case, it'd mean that Bing will pay Google for travel information. Not sure Microsoft is ready to do so...
Top China's online B2B platform Alibaba.com agreed to acquire Vendio, a US provider of e-commerce services.
Vendio Services: the US Alibaba
Vendio provides a software-as-a-service eCommerce technology platform offering the same Internet business services in the US as Alibaba.com connects millions of buyers and sellers around the world.
Small retailers can operate their own web store as well as build links to sell through other channels such as eBay.com, Amazon.com and several comparison shopping engines.
The start-up already hosts services for 80,000 small U.S. businesses which can now link into Alibaba's network of buyers and suppliers.
The deal is expected to be closed next month. Vendio will continue to operate under its own name as a unit of Alibaba.com.
Alibaba.com to expand abroad
By acquiring Vendio, Alibaba.com will reinforce its wholesale business supplier network by adding tens of thousands of retailers and expand its business model to provide retail e-commerce technology and services to US merchants.
Alibaba.com’s first major US acquisition may be a first step to expand globally. By expanding abroad, Alibaba is following the example of Rakuten which recently entered the European market through the acquisition of French eCommerce leader PriceMinister.
Alibaba.com is the listed unit of the Alibaba Group. A few weeks ago, Alibaba Group established a small loan company to lend money to Chinese SMEs.
Japan's online mall giant Rakuten acquires French number one online eCommerce platform PriceMinister for about 200 million euros.
Rakuten buys France's biggest eCommerce platform
Rakuten which is Japan’s biggest online shopping mall operator will acquire the entire stake in PriceMinister which is France's biggest online shopping platform in terms of monthly visitors.
The 200 million euro acquisition is expected to be finalized in July.
Launched in 2000, PriceMinister had 10 million registered members and revenue of 40 million euros in 2009. The Paris-based company also provides services in the UK and Spain.
Rakuten wants to be a global company
With this acquisition, Rakuten enters the European eCommerce market after it recently bought US online retailer Buy.com for approximatively the same price ($250M).
In addition, the Chinese online shopping market is also part of Rakuten's plans: the Japanese company established a joint venture with the Chinese search engine Baidu to launch an eCommerce platform in China.
Moreover, Rakuten also signed a deal with Indonesian media conglomerate PT Global Mediacom to launch a local eCommerce network through a joint-venture in the second half of 2010.
With these several acquisitions and partnerships, the Japenese company clearly wants to expand internationally since Japan's eCommerce market is mature.
World eCommerce market on the move
At the same time, Rakuten's rivals, China's largest e-retailer Taobao and Yahoo! Japan, have joined forces to launch the world's largest cross-border e-Commerce platform.
World e-Commerce market is undergoing moves, especially in Asia where growth is driven by countries such as China (see our previous post about statistics of China's e-Commerce).
US actors like Ebay and Amazon have been rather discrete till now but they will have to react if they want to be still parts of the worldwide eCommerce race.