Boomtown last week set the blogging world ablaze with the rumor that Google is working up the nerve to buy a local deal-making phenomenon, a startup several experts at the Web 2.0 Summit said was worth billions of dollars.
Groupon, which Boomtown said Google would shell out $3 billion for, offers subscribers local daily deals and the ability to pass the deals along to other users via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.
Users print up the vouchers or call them up on their mobile device and bring them to the participating stores to claim their deals, which is not unlike the new Facebook Deals service launched a few weeks ago.
The company would seem to tuck in well with Google's myriad local search and ad efforts to keep people visiting the Website, particularly in the year of the rising smartphone with Android taking off in close pursuit of Apple's iPhone.
What's interesting is the rumor comes 11 months after Google was in close discussions with Yelp to buy that local review and ratings Website.
After that deal fell through, Google went on a local business-oriented tear.
I detail that innovation spree here, but it includes renaming Google Local Business Center Google Places; launching Tags; and rolling out the Boost SMB ad platform, Google Place Search and most recently Hotpot for recommendations.
Google has done quite well in local from April through last week. About the only thing it doesn't have is a viable check-in platform for local deals like Facebook Deals and Foursquare. People just don't use Google Latitude and Google Buzz like they should.
Groupon would make Google a local traffic powerhouse, providing a nice boost to its local search and ad properties I listed above.
Does Google keep Groupon as a stand-alone Website, like it just did with Boutiques.com, the former Like.com asset, or does it integrate Groupon throughout Google Places?
My guess is it keeps Groupon separate, but surfaces the daily deals across Google Places and lets participants advertise however they want -- Tags, Boost, which is ostensibly an SMB version of AdWords.
Getting Groupon would also keep the company from Yahoo (which just introduced Local Offers with Groupon as a partner and is said to be interested in the company), Facebook, Microsoft and anyone with half a stake in the digital ad realm.
Frankly, it could use Groupon to finish up strong in 2010 after a year of misses, such as the Nexus One, Google Buzz and the closure of Google Wave, and to add to its string of hits, such as Google Instant and the rise of YouTube display ads and AdMob mobile ads.