Microsoft buys LinkedIn for US$26.2 billion: 4 big social media deals that paid off

The logos of Microsoft and LinkedIn on June 13, 2016.
The logos of Microsoft and LinkedIn on June 13, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Tech giant Microsoft will buy LinkedIn, the world's largest online network for professionals, for US$26.2 billion (S$35.6 billion).

The eye-watering sum represents one of the biggest tech deals around, and will likely become the biggest in Microsoft's history.

What were some other famous social media and messaging networks that have been bought and sold, and how have they fared since? We take a look at four mega deals that probably paid off.

1. Microsoft buys Skype for US$8.5 billion

The US$8.5 billion acquisition in 2011 of video chat and voice call app Skype was Microsoft's biggest until LinkedIn.

 

The company became a division of Microsoft, and the service became the default messaging app on Windows from Windows 8.1.

Microsoft's own messaging client, Windows Live Messenger (once known as MSN Messenger), was discontinued in favour of Skype.

Was Skype worth the money? The Guardian's Charles Arthur, writing on Skype's 10th anniversary in 2013, said that the deal has not been wasted.

While he called the purchase "a gamble unlikely to pay off" in 2011, he noted that two years later, Skype had more users than ever and had been integrated into Microsoft's products. "With 10 years behind it, there's every possibility that Skype will have at least another 10 in front - and almost certainly inside Microsoft," he wrote.

2. Facebook buys WhatsApp for US$22 billion

Everyone you know probably has WhatsApp on their smartphones, but few knew much about the company behind it until Facebook splashed the cash to pick it up in 2014.

 

The eventual price was a reported US$22 billion - a figure that dwarfs the reported US$10.2 million WhatsApp generated in revenue in 2013.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement in 2014: "Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. We do this by building services that help people share any type of content with any group of people they want. WhatsApp will help us do this by continuing to develop a service that people around the world love to use every day."

He added that WhatsApp boasted 450 million users.

The number has soared to 1 billion, WhatsApp said in February this year.

Combined activity on WhatsApp and its stablemate, Facebook's Messenger app, hit 60 billion messages a day, Mr Zuckerberg said in April.

3. Google buys YouTube for US$1.65 billion

It has been 10 years since Google bought YouTube for US$1.65 billion, and the video sharing service has gone from strength to strength since.

"Some cynics have questioned YouTube's staying power", said an Associated Press report from 2006, but the sentiment was valid - it was feared YouTube would be dragged into copyright lawsuits in the manner that took down file-sharing pioneer Napster.

Those fears have not panned out. YouTube is now home to videos from corporations and the individual alike, and was estimated last year to be worth US$70 billion, according to a Bank of America analyst.

Culturally, the site is a household name, and has spawned words like "YouTuber" and "YouTube personality", catch-all terms for the thousands of people who attempt to make a living from producing videos specifically for YouTube, the most successful of whom make millions a year.

Google's acquisition now looks a prescient purchase - not bad for a deal that was sparked off by a video of two boys in China lip-syncing to a Backstreet Boys song. Google's then CEO Susan Wojcicki watched it and was convinced of the site's potential.

4. Facebook buys Instagram for US$1 billion

Photo-sharing social network Instagram was snapped up by Facebook for US$1 billion in April 2012.

It has only been a few years, but the investment is said to be worth much, much more today. In 2015, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said that Instagram is worth $37 billion.

Since the purchase, Instagram has rolled out video posts and advertising, among other features. That has helped to attract some 400 million users - up from 27 million when Facebook bought the platform - and more monthly active advertisers than Twitter.

Instagram is predicted to have a huge 2016. Credit Suisse analysts believe that the platform will bring in US$3.2 billion in revenue in 2016 alone, Bloomberg reported.