Google Plus scoops up mobile poll start-up Polar. New direction for the network?

Google announced Thursday that it is acquiring Polar, a start-up that lets mobile users participate in polls, for Google Plus, a move that could signal new directions for the social network. 

Ben Margot/AP/File
Google co-founders Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin pose for photos at their company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Jan. 15, 2004. Google’s IPO 10 years ago launched the company on a trajectory that continues to reshape its business and much of the world in its orbit

Google will acquire Polar, a start-up that lets users create and participate in polls through a mobile app as well as let Web publishers make polls for users. 

The acquisition, announced Thursday, will see the company refashioned as part of Google Plus, Google's social network. Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. 

"I'm thrilled to welcome Luke Wroblewski and the talented Polar team to Google! They'll be joining our team and helping us make G+ even more awesome," said Dave Besbris, Google's vice president of engineering for Google Plus, in a statement Thursday on his Google Plus page. 

Since its launch two years ago, one in every 449 Internet users has voted on a Polar poll, according to Polar's website. Examples of such polls include an MTV poll with the title "Which Melanie Iglesias Photo Do You Like Better?" and an HBO poll with the title "Who is the most underestimated Game of Thrones character?" Users are then prompted to share how they voted on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.

Founded by Mr. Wreblowski, who spent time at Benchmark Capital and Yahoo before starting Polar, it had reportedly raised $2.9 million in funding before Google's acquisition, according to Crunch Base. 

But as Polar prepares to head to Google, it will stop its operations by the end of 2014 before focusing its attention on working with Google Plus. 

Some have called Google Plus a "ghost town" due to the low number of people who actually use the social network when compared with a social media giant like Facebook. Google says its social network has 300 million monthly users while Facebook has 1.2 billion. Still, that places Google Plus ahead of Twitter, which has around 271 million monthly users.

Nevertheless, whether it competes with Facebook or not, Google Plus serves important functions for Google: it gives users a single log-in for all Google services and products and gives Google another opportunity to learn about users' online behavior, crucial for the targeted advertising that is Google's bread and butter. 

Proponents of the site also say they enjoy the photo and video services offered as well as the lengthy, substantive conversations between users, which are different from, say, short exchanges of 140 characters or less. Some have proudly dubbed Google Plus the "un-Facebook." 

Currently, it's unclear whether Polar's existing technology will be utilized by Google or if Wreblowski and his team were mainly brought in for talent purposes. Wreblowski has proven skills when it comes to designing mobile platforms. In 2011, he published "Mobile First," a book that argues why websites and applications should be developed primarily with mobile devices, not desktops or PCs, in mind. 

"We're delighted to be joining the Google+ team and bringing our arctic circle sensibilities to sunny California," reads a post on Polar's site regarding the acquisition. 

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