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Google, Apple, And Facebook’s Biggest Acquisitions Over The Last 15 Years

On the heels of Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp, an interactive visualization compares the acquisition strategies of Google, Facebook, AOL, Yahoo, and Apple.

Last week, Facebook shocked us all by acquiring WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion–a figure exceeding more than one year of NASA funding, 76 Washington Posts, and the entire world music industry.

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To help put that acquisition in context, business insurance provider Simply Business has just released an interactive visualization that compares the acquisition strategies of five tech giants over the last 15 years. The “Hungry Tech Giants,” as they’re called here–Apple, Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook–gobble up company after company, represented by colorful bubbles like constellations in capitalism’s infinite skies. Each bubble’s size represents the price paid for the startup, if it was disclosed.


The most expensive acquisition in that 15-year period by any of these companies was still way cheaper than WhatsApp: Google purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012, represented here by a Betelgeuse-like bubble, while WhatsApp sits in the corner of the map like a fat sun.

Certain trends also become clear: In recent years, social media, mobile, and hardware acquisitions have become more coveted, while the popularity of search, media, and advertising has waned. The map also allows us to compare the strategies of different CEOs: Steve Jobs, for example, saw acquisitions as a “failure to innovate,” so Apple had a long acquiring dry spell until 2011. But under Tim Cook’s management, Apple has regularly acquired for talent or IP.

Designer Mark Johnstone put together the visualization in Illustrator using Javascript and CSS. “It was quite challenging, as we couldn’t actually see the visualization in full until we coded it,” Johnstone tells Co.Design. Mapping the bulk of the hundreds of data points required the addition of a zoom feature to allow users to pinpoint the data with more accuracy. “Otherwise, the overlapping bubbles became too challenging to navigate,” Johnstone says.


The comprehensive timeline allows the user to filter acquisitions by cost, frequency, and sector (whether it was a mobile or social company, e-commerce or advertising, for example). It beautifully organizes an overwhelming and often confusing history of purchases, and visualizes how startup companies that were once little Davids, like Instagram, can evolve into Goliaths in a world of increasing conglomeration. See the full map here.

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About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.

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