I've written before about Web 2.0 Whac-a-mole--the tendency for interesting, lightly funded or bootstrapped startups to get bought out by bigger companies and then to disappear into innovation oblivion. It's really unfortunate, because a lot of them had the potential to be very disruptive, but instead had their red Swingline staplers taken away from them in exchange for some nice payouts to first time entrepreneurs who still owned a majority of their companies.
del.icio.us never became the people powered search competitor to Google. MyBlogLog never became a distributed social network across the web. Of course, nothing against those founders--it's difficult to turn down a bird in the hand, but certainly it seems like the idea of using their parent company's resources and reach to really make a bigger impact than they could have done alone hasn't seem to play out. Just ask the Tickle folks, who's $70 million baby bought by Monster died a slow 4 year death.
So when I heard that Microsoft was going to buy Xobni, I was pissed. That would have sent the chances of their ever being a Thunderbird plugin down to about zero. Small remnants of the service would have maybe made it into Outlook 2015, long after the frustrated founders left the clutches of their Redmond overlords. If you're long e-mail as the gateway to a smarter social graph, this was not an acquisition you wanted to see happen.
Seems like founders Adam Smith and Matt Brezina thought the same thing and so they walked away from the acquisition. Fantastic! Good for you guys! At the end of the day, money's great, but I think they realized they have a great opportunity here to be something a lot bigger... why not take a shot? They're obviously smart guys capable of building interesting products, so it's not like this is the only potential for money they'll ever have. It's not like two talented developers are ever going to wind up homeless. I applaud their interest in doing something bigger and look forward to being able to use their tools on either Thunderbird or gmail.