Facebook and Microsoft appear to be in talks for a deal that could revolutionize the online ad business. Facebook is looking to buy Atlas Solutions, an ad-serving product Microsoft acquired when it bought aQuantive for $6 billion in 2007, sources tell Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider. Facebook would pay considerably less than $6 billion for the unit, which Microsoft has been trying to unload for a while, the sources said. Take the rumor with a grain of salt, however; the sources aren't from within either company.
But if the deal does happen, it could "change the way advertising is done online forever," Carlson writes. Because Facebook has its users' phone numbers and email addresses, if it had Atlas' ad-serving technology, it would have the unique ability to tell clients who have that same user info whether someone who bought their product saw a related ad on Facebook first. And, significantly, it could do the same trick on ads delivered by partner websites. Facebook could finally "leverage its real asset, data," instead of relying on "the tiny, annoying ads currently on Facebook.com." (Read more advertising stories.)