One popular use of social-networking site Facebook.com is to flirt with other members. As it happens, Facebook Inc., the start-up company behind the Web site, has been doing some serious flirting of its own.
People familiar with the matter say the company has held separate acquisition talks with Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Viacom Inc. over the past year. Now, say some of these people, the start-up is in serious discussions — again — to sell itself to Yahoo for an amount that could approach $1 billion.
Behind the pursuit of Facebook is a high-stakes battle by big technology companies to extend their influence on the Internet. Sites like Facebook and rival MySpace have become the Web hangouts for a coveted market: young people. They gather there in large numbers to create Web pages with their own profiles and musings, look for friends, pick up strangers and send messages to each other.