A little bit of consolidation hit the still-developing social networking space on Thursday as Tickle Inc., the new name for online media company Emode.com Inc., announced the acquisition of a key company in the space.
Tickle bought Ringo—a Walnut Creek, Calif.-based social networking site that, like leader Friendster, connects people with friends of friends—in a cash-and-stock deal. Details of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Tickle, of San Francisco, had launched just 10 weeks ago its own social networking service that built on the former Emode.coms specialty of offering online personality tests. The acquisition of Ringo and its 350,000 members will push Tickles social networking service to more than a million members, making it the second largest social networking service behind Friendster, Tickle said.
"Tickle is a company that is entering the forefront of the second wave of the Internet," Tickle founder and CEO James Currier said. "Social networking is one piece of that."
With Ringo, Tickle gains new applications—including blogs, forums and listings—and plans to integrate features form both sites into one another before eventually merging them under the Tickle brand, Currier said. Joining Tickle and its social networking service is free, but the site does charge users to access detailed results from some of its online tests.
While the acquisition will position Tickle as a top competitor to Friendster among social networking companies, Currier said he doesnt view Friendster as the main competition. Instead, he believes that the top Web portal sites and others with a large, established base of users will increasingly be looking to partner or build social networking as one approach for connecting people in new ways.
"Social marketing is not a space but a feature," he said. "What were going to see over the next few months is a diminishment of noise around social networking as a space and more focus on this as the people Web."
Tickle was founded in 1999 as Emode.com and has been profitable for the past six quarters, the company said.
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