It’s been a busy week in tech-land, as media and Internet giants have been snapping up Web startups like kids in a candy store. CBS, which only just finished buying the financial video-blogging show known as Wallstrip (created in part by Toronto venture capitalist and hedge fund manager Howard Lindzon) is paying $280-million (U.S.) to acquire Last.fm, one of the most popular online music tools around today. And as has been rumoured here and other places, eBay — which paid $2.4-billion or so for Skype not too long ago — is buying StumbleUpon, a Canadian creation that was based in Calgary before moving to the Valley.
StumbleUpon is what you might call a “serendipity engine,” in the sense that it randomizes the Internet by serving up web-pages from a vast catalogue of user submissions, either sending you to a completely random page or choosing a random one from a category of your choosing. Users — of which there are about 2.3 million now — can then vote on whether they like the site or not. I have to confess that I still don’t see how it’s going to fit into eBay’s traditional auction business, but someone at Seeking Alpha has done their best to put together a convincing argument here.
Last.fm, which is similar to another site called Pandora, allows users to set up a profile with their favourite music (including their iTunes playlists) and then share that with others. The site then recommends new music based on similarities between their selections and those of people with similar tastes. By contrast, Pandora uses advanced algorithms to determine similarities between songs, and then recommend new ones based on those attributes (there’s a good discussion of the differences between the two here).
Scott Karp has some thoughts on the Last.fm deal as a sort of Hail Mary play by CBS because of its radio assets, and there’s a post from one of the Last.fm founders here. In case you are keeping score at home, according to the Times of London (Last.fm was created in London), the three founders will get approximately $38-million each from the deal.