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Infographic Of The Day: Google's 11-Year Spending Spree

Google's buying activity has seen an interesting spike in recent years, and what it's buying tells you a lot about U.S. innovation and Google's surprisingly conservative strategy.

The relentless, daily stream of Google news tends to hide one important fact about the company: They've been buying a lot of smaller companies, in their ever-evolving quest to dominate the online ad market and shore up their defenses against disruptive innovations or nagging patent lawsuits.

Here's an infographic illustrating that, created by Antonio Lupetti, the founder of Italian tech site Woorkup:

The main take-away, of course, is that Google has actually been quite strategic about its biggest purchases: These aren't big-ticket impulse buys, as you might expect given Google's wild-and-wacky image as loving innovation for innovation's sake. In each case, from Double-Click to Ad Mob to YouTube, the focus has been on shoring up its core advertising business. (Granted, the AOL "acquisition" is actually more of a strategic partnership, but never mind. That's still a lot of money.) The fact is that Google keeps its bets on crazy ideas small and well distributed, while it reserves its biggest cheese for (almost) sure things.

The one seeming outlier, of course, is YouTube. But that was a different sort of bet: It hinged on the idea that Google was a master of monetization, and would be able to bring its ad-words intelligence to online videos, which hadn't really ever had a working business model. After some rather large hiccups—including a stunning rate of cash burn—it seems to be working, even as YouTube expands into original content in hopes of creating a more robust set of offerings to advertisers that would rather not be too attached to Keyboard Cat and Chocolate Rain.

Things actually get a bit more interesting in the latter part of the infographic:

If you think about Google as one giant bellweather of the state of innovation in the U.S., then the fact that 74 of its 102 acquisitions were of U.S. companies is a very good sign indeed. It would probably be worrying if, for example, Google had to look overseas for the best companies to buy. That might mean that Silicon Valley, the greatest innovation engine known to man, was losing some of its mojo. But that clearly doesn't seem to be happening, to judge by these data.

But the last, most interesting part is actually at the end, and totally obfuscated by the confusing data representation. Look at the line showing the number of acquisitions that Google has conducted. The last two years have seen a very large spike in buying activity — and 2011 isn't even done yet. It would be easy to read too much into that — to interpret Google as being desperate for new avenues of growth, for example. But at the very least you can say that Google isn't letting its enormous pile of cash sit around, as it once seemed so content to do.

[Top image by Images_of_Money]

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  • jeff beddow

    Why didn't you use different sized circles to indicate the scale of the data?  Its an odd "infographic" and runs counter to the current of visualization practices developing on the net.  Just a thought.

  • a friend

    It's also possible that Google's acquisitions slowed in 2008 and 2009 because of the financial crisis that started with the housing bubble burst in 2007. Many tech companies were being very conservative with their cash reserves in 2008 and 2009 in direct response to the dire economic conditions.

  • Kenny G. Villacorta S.

    Nice infographic, Gerrr! is right though, Google invested $1billion in AOL so that Google becomes the default search engine for AOL and other sites they own. Same thing with MySpace, Google had a $900 million search deal.

  • D'orhk!

    They didn't buy AOL; they invested in a share (5%) of AOL.  And hey, they invested $500M in Clearwire, too, you know?

    Also missing, a lot of ad-free software that Google bought out and delivered for free...Picasa, SketchUp, Earth, Blogger, etc.

    Beware the faulty infographic, which seems to be the trend these days.

  • Cliff Kuang

    I didn't create the infographic, but I'm almost certain that all of the acquisitions you list weren't listed by name because they weren't over a $1 billion. Including Clearwire. And also, the point about AOL lies in the text, so: I guess maybe it helps to read the article before you say it sucks?

  • D'orhk!

    I did read what you wrote, and likewise I understood that they created an arbitrary $1B valuation limit. I'm not directly criticizing you for the content of the infographic, but you did offer this graphic up.

    However, when data is manipulated and arbitrarily presented, it is done so as propaganda.

    If you can't take criticism, I'll kindly take my blog linking of Co.Design DesignBoom.

  • TXdesigner

    Then why don't you design an infographic for us Master of information?

    It's a beautifully designed info graphic and good read. Thanks Cliff

  • D'orhk!

    Oh I see...pretty is more important than accuracy. I see how you and CoDesign rolls.