As the online arena becomes increasingly consolidated, the word from Reuters is that two of its biggest players are competing to secure an alliance with the dominant VoIP and video chat service. Earlier this year, it was reported that Skype had pushed back its initial public offering to the second half of 2011. While the word at the time had it that Skype was doing this to shore up numbers and get its new CEO acclimated to the company, Reuters says that Facebook and Google have taken the opportunity of the delay to court Skype, most likely for a joint venture but possibly even for an acquisition.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has been involved in internal discussions about buying Skype, according to one of the sources. Another source said Facebook had reached out to the Luxembourg-based company about forming a joint venture.
Google has also held early talks for a joint venture with Skype, the second source said. A Skype deal could be valued at $3 billion to $4 billion, the first source said. Skype’s IPO is expected to raise about $1 billion, several other sources said.
The discussions are in early stages, and it is not clear which option the companies favor, the first two sources said.
Skype 5 already features a degree of Facebook integration, but it’s not hard to imagine how powerful a serious Facebook/Skype deal could be: Integrated calls and video conferencing could vault the already dominant Facebook Chat instant messaging client into a new sphere of addictiveness for its power users. Murkier, though, is what Google would want to do with Skype: Between Google Voice and video-enabled Gchat, Google already has Skype’s basic capabilities down pat. The Guardian speculates that a Google-Skype deal could be more oriented towards Google TV or Android.