The Big Five: Largest Acquisitions by Tech Company
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The Big Five: Largest Acquisitions by Tech Company

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The Big Five: Largest Acquisitions by Tech Company

The Big Five tech giants, or “FAAMG”—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google (Alphabet)—have a combined market capitalization of over $4 trillion.

These powerful tech behemoths often devour the talent, technology, or entire businesses of aspiring competitors. Given their financial weight, mergers and acquisitions have become a key tactic in maintaining their strong grip on tech supremacy.

Today’s Chart of the Week explores the world’s most powerful tech companies and their biggest acquisitions to date.

Which Acquisitions Were a Success?

While these tech giants may have had big aspirations for these exceedingly large deals, they have mixed success rates.

Microsoft

Microsoft made its big move 2016 to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, and it’s the most sizable acquisition by any of the Big Five tech companies.

Microsoft’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
LinkedIn (2016)$26.2 billionSocial Media
Skype (2011)$8.5 billionTelecommunications
GitHub (2018)$7.5 billionSoftware
Nokia (2014)$7.2 billionTelecommunications
aQuantive (2007)$6.3 billionMarketing

The LinkedIn deal was made due to the synergy between the two companies’ offerings, and Microsoft’s desire to gain access to LinkedIn’s 575 million members.

However, not all of Microsoft’s acquisitions have been as successful, such as its 2014 purchase of Nokia’s Devices & Services business for $7.2 billion. This seemed like a smart move at the time, considering the Finnish company held 41% of the global handset market.

Yet, Microsoft sold the asset for a mere $350 million just two years later. Microsoft shifted its strategy and exited the feature phone market, choosing to focus on a narrow, niche market for their hardware.

Amazon

Amazon has closed more than $20 billion in acquisitions and investments since 2017. This includes the purchase of Whole Foods, which Amazon bought for $13.7 billion, and is the company’s largest acquisition to date.

Amazon’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
Whole Foods (2017)$13.7 billionRetail
Zappos (2009)$1.2 billionRetail
Ring (2018)$1.2 billionTechnology
PillPack (2018)$1 billionPharmaceuticals
Twitch (2014)$970 millionSocial Media

From purchases to bolster the AI of smart assistant Alexa, to Wi-Fi enabled doorbell Ring, recent additions clearly show the company intends to cement its presence in people’s homes.

After acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon began offering store discounts to Prime customers, in an attempt to bundle its home offerings and provide a more holistic customer experience.

Alphabet

Alphabet has made several daring moves into the hardware and data science sectors. The company’s biggest acquisition was Motorola, which it bought in 2012 for $12.5 billion.

Alphabet’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
Motorola (2012)$12.5 billionTelecommunications
Nest (2014)$3.2 billionTechnology
DoubleClick (2007)$3.1 billionMarketing
Looker (2019)$2.6 billionSoftware
YouTube (2006)$1.7 billionSocial Media

However, the purchase of Motorola was a bet that didn’t pay off. Alphabet sold off much of Motorola’s assets for less than $3 billion in 2014, a little less than two years after it had originally acquired it.

Alphabet continues to consolidate its acquisitions in order to simplify its organizational structure. DoubleClick, acquired in 2007, merged with Google Analytics 360 Suite under the Google Marketing Platform—making it easier for marketers to access their metrics using one platform.

Apple

Out of the Big Five companies, Apple has the fewest acquisitions over $1 billion. Its largest purchase was for Beats Electronics, which it acquired for $3 billion in 2014.

Apple’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
Beats (2014)$3 billionMusic
Dialog Semiconductor (2018)$600 millionManufacturing
Anobit (2011)$500 millionManufacturing
Shazam (2017)$400 millionMusic
NeXT Computer (1996)$400 millionTechnology

Apple’s increasing music streaming efforts have been evident, with the acquisition of Shazam three years after it purchased Beats Electronics.

In an intriguing recent turn of events, Apple recently announced it will acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. This $1 billion deal will allow Apple to build all of its devices in-house, and better prepare the iPhone for the upcoming 5G push.

Facebook

Facebook’s largest acquisition has been WhatsApp Messenger, which it purchased for $22 billion in 2014. The WhatsApp acquisition is the second largest of the Big Five, following Microsoft’s LinkedIn purchase.

Facebook’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:

Acquisition (Year)AmountCategory
WhatsApp (2014)$22 billionSocial Media
Oculus (2014)$2 billionTechnology
Instagram (2012)$1 billionSocial Media
LiveRail (2014)$500 millionMarketing
Onavo (2013)$200 millionAnalytics

Aside from absorbing any competitors who encroach on Facebook’s turf—such as WhatsApp and Instagram—Facebook’s takeovers have been aimed at venturing into uncharted territory. The acquisition of virtual reality manufacturer, Oculus, is evidence of Facebook’s bet on virtual reality as the future of engagement.

“After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, or studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world —just by putting on goggles in your home.”

—Mark Zuckerberg

Predicting the Next Shift

The Big Five are some of the most influential companies in the world today.

Beyond rapidly reshaping the global tech landscape, these acquisitions provide important context on how tech companies consolidate power—and, more importantly, what will fuel their next phase of growth.

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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web

A lot has changed since Yahoo and AOL were the homepages of choice. This visualization looks at the largest internet giants in the U.S. since 1998.

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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web (1998-Today)

With each passing year, an increasingly large segment of the population no longer remembers images loading a single pixel row at a time, the earsplitting sound of a 56k modem, or the early domination of web portals.

Many of the top websites in 1998 were news aggregators or search portals, which are easy concepts to understand. Today, brand touch-points are often spread out between devices (e.g. mobile apps vs. desktop) and a myriad of services and sub-brands (e.g. Facebook’s constellation of apps). As a result, the world’s biggest websites are complex, interconnected web properties.

The visualization above, which primarily uses data from ComScore’s U.S. Multi-Platform Properties ranking, looks at which of the internet giants have evolved to stay on top, and which have faded into internet lore.

America Moves Online

For millions of curious people the late ’90s, the iconic AOL compact disc was the key that opened the door to the World Wide Web. At its peak, an estimated 35 million people accessed the internet using AOL, and the company rode the Dotcom bubble to dizzying heights, reaching a valuation of $222 billion dollars in 1999.

AOL’s brand may not carry the caché it once did, but the brand never completely faded into obscurity. The company continually evolved, finally merging with Yahoo after Verizon acquired both of the legendary online brands. Verizon had high hopes for the company—called Oath—to evolve into a “third option” for advertisers and users who were fed up with Google and Facebook.

Sadly, those ambitions did not materialize as planned. In 2019, Oath was renamed Verizon Media, and was eventually sold once again in 2021.

A City of Gifs and Web Logs

As internet usage began to reach critical mass, web hosts such as AngelFire and GeoCities made it easy for people to create a new home on the Web.

GeoCities, in particular, made a huge impact on the early internet, hosting millions of websites and giving people a way to actually participate in creating online content. If it were a physical community of “home” pages, it would’ve been the third largest city in America, after Los Angeles.

This early online community was at risk of being erased permanently when GeoCities was finally shuttered by Yahoo in 2009, but luckily, the nonprofit Internet Archive took special efforts to create a thorough record of GeoCities-hosted pages.

From A to Z

In December of 1998, long before Amazon became the well-oiled retail machine we know today, the company was in the midst of a massive holiday season crunch.

In the real world, employees were pulling long hours and even sleeping in cars to keep the goods flowing, while online, Amazon.com had become one of the biggest sites on the internet as people began to get comfortable with the idea of purchasing goods online. Demand surged as the company began to expand their offering beyond books.

Amazon.com has grown to be the most successful merchant on the Internet.

– New York Times (1998)

Digital Magazine Rack

Meredith will be an unfamiliar brand to many people looking at today’s top 20 list. While Meredith may not be a household name, the company controlled many of the country’s most popular magazine brands (People, AllRecipes, Martha Stewart, Health, etc.) including their sizable digital footprints. The company also owned a slew of local television networks around the United States.

After its acquisition of Time Inc. in 2017, Meredith became the largest magazine publisher in the world. Since then, however, Meredith has divested many of its most valuable assets (Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune). In December 2021, Meredith merged with IAC’s Dotdash.

“Hey, Google”

When people have burning questions, they increasingly turn to the internet for answers, but the diversity of sources for those answers is shrinking.

Even as recently as 2013, we can see that About.com, Ask.com, and Answers.com were still among the biggest websites in America. Today though, Google appears to have cemented its status as a universal wellspring of answers.

As smart speakers and voice assistants continue penetrate the market and influence search behavior, Google is unlikely to face any near-term competition from any company not already in the top 20 list.

New Kids on the Block

Social media has long since outgrown its fad stage and is now a common digital thread connecting people across the world. While Facebook rapidly jumped into the top 20 by 2007, other social media infused brands took longer to grow into internet giants.

By 2018, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook’s umbrella of platforms were all in the top 20, and you can see a more detailed and up-to-date breakdown of the social media universe here.

A Tangled Web

Today’s internet giants have evolved far beyond their ancestors from two decades ago. Many of the companies in the top 20 run numerous platforms and content streams, and more often than not, they are not household names.

A few, such as Mediavine and CafeMedia, are services that manage ads. Others manage content distribution, such as music, or manage a constellation of smaller media properties, as is the case with Hearst.

Lastly, there are still the tech giants. Remarkably, three of the top five web properties were in the top 20 list in 1998. In the fast-paced digital ecosystem, that’s some remarkable staying power.

This article was inspired by an earlier work by Philip Bump, published in the Washington Post.

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Visualizing the Power of the World’s Supercomputers

Supercomputers are some of the most advanced machines humans have ever created. See how they stack up in this infographic.

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Visualizing the Power of the World’s Supercomputers

A supercomputer is a machine that is built to handle billions, if not trillions of calculations at once. Each supercomputer is actually made up of many individual computers (known as nodes) that work together in parallel.

A common metric for measuring the performance of these machines is flops, or floating point operations per second.

In this visualization, we’ve used November 2021 data from TOP500 to visualize the computing power of the world’s top five supercomputers. For added context, a number of modern consumer devices were included in the comparison.

Ranking by Teraflops

Because supercomputers can achieve over one quadrillion flops, and consumer devices are much less powerful, we’ve used teraflops as our comparison metric.

1 teraflop = 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) flops.

RankNameTypeTeraflops
#1🇯🇵 Supercomputer FugakuSupercomputer537,212
#2🇺🇸 SummitSupercomputer200,795
#3🇺🇸 SierraSupercomputer125,712
#4🇨🇳 Sunway TaihulightSupercomputer125,436
#5🇺🇸 PerlmutterSupercomputer93,750
n/aNvidia Titan RTXConsumer device130
n/aNvidia GeForce RTX 3090Consumer device36
n/aXbox Series XConsumer device12
n/aTesla Model S (2021) Consumer device10

Supercomputer Fugaku was completed in March 2021, and is officially the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It’s used for various applications, including weather simulations and innovative drug discovery.

Sunway Taihulight is officially China’s top supercomputer and fourth most powerful in the world. That said, some experts believe that the country is already operating two much more powerful systems, based on data from anonymous sources.

As you can see, the most advanced consumer devices do not come close to supercomputing power. For example, it would take the combined power of 4,000 Nvidia Titan RTX graphics cards (the most powerful consumer card available) to measure up to the Fugaku.

Upcoming Supercomputers

One of China’s unrevealed supercomputers is supposedly named Oceanlite, and is a successor to Sunway Taihulight. It’s believed to have reached 1.3 exaflops, or 1.3 quintillion flops. The following table makes it easier to follow all of these big numbers.

NameNotationExponentPrefix
Quintillion1,000,000,000,000,000,00010^18Exa 
Quadrillion1,000,000,000,000,00010^15Peta
Trillion 1,000,000,000,00010^12Tera
Billion1,000,000,00010^9Giga
Million1,000,00010^6Mega

In the U.S., rival chipmakers AMD and Intel have both won contracts from the U.S. Department of Energy to build exascale supercomputers. On the AMD side, there’s Frontier and El Capitan, while on the Intel side, there’s Aurora.

Also involved in the EL Capitan project is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which claims the supercomputer will be able to reach 2 exaflops upon its completion in 2023. All of this power will be used to support several exciting endeavors:

  • Enable advanced simulation and modeling to support the U.S. nuclear stockpile and ensure its reliability and security.
  • Accelerate cancer drug discovery from six years to one year through a partnership with pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Understand the dynamic and mutations of RAS proteins that are linked to 30% of human cancers

Altogether, exascale computing represents the ability to conduct complex analysis in a matter of seconds, rather than hours. This could unlock an even faster pace of innovation.

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