Facebook reportedly looking to buy Microsoft's Atlas ad platform

The social network is said to be in talks to buy an ad-serving product that Microsoft bought in 2007.

Facebook, looking for ways to bolster its advertising capabilities, is in talks to buy Microsoft's Atlas advertising platform, according to reports.

Microsoft's Atlas Solutions is an ad-serving product that helps advertisers buy and manage ads. The software giant acquired the business as part of its $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive in 2007, which was Microsoft's largest acquisition to date. News of the talks was first reported by All Things Digital.

Spokespeople for Facebook and Microsoft both declined to comment.

Microsoft, which ended up writing off most of the acquisition cost, has reportedly been trying to sell Atlas for a while. Most recently, it was in talks with AppNexus, a New York-based ad company.

Advertisers and ad agencies use Atlas to place ads on Web sites and to measure the performance of their Web advertising. Big brands such as AT&T have used Atlas to serve and track online ad campaigns. But the business has lost share in recent years as customers have opted for rivals. Atlas competes directly with Doubleclick, which Google purchased for $3.1 billion just before Microsoft acquired aQuantive.

Buying Atlas seems like a shrewd move for Facebook as a way for the social network to compete with Google's DoubleClick without building a rival product from scratch. This could also show that Facebook is on its way to building out a third-party ad network, which seems inevitable and a potentially big money maker. So many sites are tied to Facebook through Facebook Connect that serving up display ads to sites outside Facebook's walls is a logical way to expand its business without cluttering up Facebook itself with more ads.

Through Atlas, Microsoft offers a range of tools that help advertisers design campaigns across Web sites and on search (remember, too, that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has said he has a team building out a search product ). Altlas helps brands collect and translate data in a way that helps them measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

CNET's Jay Greene contributed to this report.

 

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