Google goes after Bebo for a Billion?

While all eyeballs are focused on Microsoft's potential acquisition of Yahoo, a rumour has resurfaced again at Techcrunch.com, only to be rejected outright by Kara Swisher at All Things Digital.

The whispers point to Google acquiring Bebo.com for anything between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, in a bid to catch up on Facebook and Myspace.

Bebo is one of the free last big independent social networking websites - the other major players being Friendster and Hi5.com - and has been catching on Google's own Orkut pretty fast according to figures released in December 2007 by Internet Analysts Comscore.

Bebo has a very small footprint in the US but has a very large presence in UK - where it is in the top ten most visited websites, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, with more than 40 million members worldwide.

In the past few months, Bebo has rejected a $550 million acquisition offer as well as a $1 billion rumoured buyout proposal from Yahoo which never came through.

Bebo and Google share a few things in common : They are both on the same OpenSocial platform which aims at facilitating data exchange and Bebo had poached Google's ex-managing director of strategic partnerships Joanna Shields to drive its international expansion.