Created at a hackathon last year, GroupMe is one of a handful of apps that enable people to have multi-person chats via their mobile devices. Group messaging has become a bit of a phenomenon this year, as a number of solutions have sprung up offering services that enable private group chat conversations from users' phones.
Skype acquired the company presumably to expand on its own mobile group messaging features. The service currently offers multi-person chat rooms, but those are only accessible by Skype users. Facebook and Google have both gotten into group communications with Facebook Messenger and the "Huddle" feature on Google Plus. This acquisition is an acknowledgement of both the need to keep up with those competitors, as well as of the significance of group messaging in general.
AllThingsD cited sources who said Skype bought the company for $85 million.The precise terms of the deal were not officially disclosed, but
"This acquisition is another step towards our vision to provide a global multi-modal and multi-platform communications experience," said Skype CEO Tony Bates in a company blog post. "It complements our existing leadership in voice and video communications by providing best in class mobile text-based communications and innovative features around group messaging that enable users to connect, share locations and photos and make plans with their closest ties."
Microsoft is already planning deep integration between Skype and its own Windows Phone mobile devices, and the inclusion of a group messaging service like GroupMe into that platform seems like a natural fit.
Group messaging was a hot topic at this year's SXSW conference and was recently named one of the top trends of 2011 by ReadWriteWeb. Another group messaging app, Beluga, was purchased by Facebook in March of this year.