RealTime IT News

Cisco Buys Into Vertical Social-Networking

Cisco Systems today bought privately held social-networking vendor Five Across, lending a hand to companies wanting to go the user-generated route. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

San Francisco-based Five Across was founded in 2003 by former Apple director of engineering Glenn Reid. The company's first products were aimed at the business instant messaging market, but in a statement Cisco said it bought the company for its Connect Community Builder.

Connect Community Builder is a white-label platform that allows companies to augment their Web sites with communities and user-generated content, such as audio-, video- and photo-sharing, blogs, podcasts and profiles.

Cisco spokesman John Noh told internetnews.com his company made the buy because Five Across's services were relevant to Cisco's core business -- networking.

Noh also said that, given increasing interest in the vertical social-networks niche, Cisco wanted to make itself a place where online companies could go to add the technologies needed to manage "online connections with online communities."

"By integrating these types of technologies into our business model, there's a lot of upside for online companies and consumers themselves," Noh said.

Forrester Research analyst Oliver Young told internetnews.com it's too early to tell if vertical social networks can be a viable Internet industry, if only because there is a question as to how many communities individuals are willing to join.

That said, Young doesn't believe the excitement surrounding Web 2.0 technologies will abed anytime soon. Plenty of companies will continue to decide they need social-networking features for their sites, and Cisco might as well be there to provide them.

"Insomuch as Cisco can help those sites get up and running, I think they have a winning proposition," Young said.

Cisco said that, upon close of the transaction, which is expected to be finalized by May, the Five Across team and product portfolio will be integrated into Cisco's Media Solutions Group, headed by Dan Scheinman.