Viewer's Choice

Analyzing the "Hungry Tech Giants"

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What you will see once you will open the website that hosts the interactive application is displayed in the picture on the right.

I will walk you through the app and explain it in detail.

I will also comment the application in the "Critique" section reachable from the side bar as a way to give my personal feedback and thoughts about the app.

Let's now dive in the "Hungry Tech Giants" interactive application by Simply Business.

The App

The purpose of this interactive app is to compare the acquisition strategies of the following tech giants :

  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Yahoo!
  • Facebook

Those companies' logos are quite famous so the user shouldn't have any difficulties in recognizing them.

The authors of the app gave the user the possibility to find patters in multiple ways.

The user, in fact, is free to filter the displayed data by category.

The available different categories are nine, and can be toggled independently.

It is also possible to temporally zoom in by using the zoom commands.





The user can analyze the data by using one of the two provided criteria that are "Cost" and "Frequency".

By default, the app shows data of acquisitions from 1999 to 2014 by showing the cost of each acquisition divided by company.

Clicking on frequency will switch to a flatter view in which each single acquisition is more visible.

Cost Criteria Displayed

Frequency Criteria Displayed

The last view offered by the application is the tabular temporal descending view of the acquisitions.

By clicking on one of the five companies the table will show up and will display all the acquisition of the selected company.

For each acquisition there are displayed the date of acquisition, the name of the company acquired,the category the acquisition cost and a link to the source that stated that particular acquisition.

The following image shows the tabular view of Google's acquisition. I have scrolled down to show Youtube's one in 2006.

All the acquisitions from 1999 to 2014 are taken in consideration by the app.

Unfortunately not all the acquisitions' amounts are disclosed.

The authors decided to show the difference among those two different sets by using a filled circle for disclosed amounts and an empty circle for undisclosed amounts.

Undisclosed Vs Disclosed

Let's take one example of one recent big acquistion : Whatsapp.

Whatsapp has been acquired by Facebook on February 2014 for 19 Billion Dollars.

The user can easily tell from the Cost Criteria View that Whatsapp is one of the biggest acquisitions in the analyzed time window.

This thanks to the big circle used to show Whatsapp acquisition.

By hovering on the circle, the information about the name of the acquired company and the amount of the disclosed amount (if present) will be shown.

Whatsapp Acquisition

If the user then clicks on the the name of the company, the weblink used by the author as a source of the acquisition will be displayed in a separate browser window.

This way the user can tell more about the acquisition, look for other sources cited and get a better overview of the overall financial operation.

TechCrunch news

If the user switches to the "Frequency View", some suggestions of the events or strategies related to the five big giants will be displayed.

Let's consider Apple this time.

The "Frequency View" easily show the different strategies of the two last CEOs, Steve Jobs and Tim Cook.

Steve and Tim strategies

You are looking at companies acquisitions of the last fifteen years, from 1999 to February 2014, of five IT Giants :

  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Yahoo!
  • Facebook

In the authors' website post about the interactive application no statements about the data has been made.

You are free to check their post here.

No data source was explicitly linked. The only accesible application code is a generated html with data embedded so I cannot infer anything about where the data comes from.

For each acquisition although a link to a website reporting that particular acquisition is provided.

Whatsapp Acquisition Embedded Data

The authors tried to show a 15 years time window worth billions of dollars in a small browser window, which is remarkable.

Having said this, visualization comes with creativity and nice ideas, and the authors showed some.

The idea of associating the cost of the acquisition with the area of the circles when using the cost criteria is good.

GeoCites for 3.6 Billions

Whatsapp for 19 Billions

Another good choice was giving the possibility to the user to filter by category, but I'll return on this point on the next section.

A way of zooming in and out in time was needed, and the authors did this in a simple but effective way.

There's also a reset button to reset the zoomed time scale, so this saves the user some annoying clicks.

A simple axis has been added to tell when in time the acquisition is located, and axes are really needed when comparing time events.

By clicking a company's logo a table with "raw" data of the acquisitions will be shown.

This table is useful to look through the history's of one company acquisition, as well to tell where precisely in time a particular acquisition happened.

A link to the source citing that particular acquisition is also provided, which is nice.

"Raw" Table

On the "not so good" of the application I'll spend more time underlying poor choices or possible improvements over poor choices.

The first thing I've noticed while using the application the first time was the following one : how are the acquisitions categorized?

Some categorizations seem fine, straightforward, others are pretty confusing

Let's consider Whatsapp, that is the first acquisition I looked for given it's worthiness

I could tell that Whatsapp was the biggest circle by myself, it doesn't take long, but to what category does Whatsapp belong?

I would have gone with "Mobile", in the end it was "Social".

Mobile or Social? Here's Mobile

A way to avoid that problem would have been to include the criteria used to categorize the acquisitions somewhere, either by a help button in the application or a documentation page.

While using the Cost Criteria each disclosed acquisition amount is displayed as a circle.

It is anyway hard to tell how big acquisition relate to each other.

On the right there's the example of Youtube and Nest, both Google's acquisitions.

The circles size grow quadratic with the area.

So, in this case, Nest acquisition "doesn't feel" two times Youtube's one.

1.6 Billions

3.2 Billions

Another thing that could have been done differently is the way the data is displayed when choosing the Cost Criteria.

When the Cost Criteria is selected, it is easy to notice a lot of empty circles. Those circles are the ones related to acquisition for which the amount is undisclosed.

I personally would have kept those acquisitions hidden, given the fact that it is possible to compare by using the other criteria, the frequency of acquisitions.

The authors probably wanted to show more data, but it is not possible to compare costs of undisclosed acquisition amounts. A better choice could have been giving the user the possibility to hide the undisclosed acquisitions.

Scattered Undisclosed

There's a big lack of documentation.

No documentation has been provided about the app. The criteria used to create the categories are not clear, the sources of the data represented are not stated.

It is surely nice to quickly look at 15 years of history of acquisitions, but it would be also nice to know the sources from where the data comes from, what has been done to the data and the assumptions of the authors.

A problem that I noticed is the hard time I have locating the events in respect to time.

I can guess when an event happened, but I can't tell the precise period.

I can't tell if there's a particular period of time, let's say winter, in which companies tend to acquire more.

I was expecting the time axis to refine as I was zooming in, but I ended up with a timeless axis. In the picture on the right you can briefly see Youtube's acquisition, happened in 2006, but on the axis there's a straight ticked line with no labels.

Lost in Time

One last side note. It is sometimes hard to distinguish the category of the acquisitions when the circles overlap. Colors indeed get mixed and hovering then becomes the only way to tell the exact color of overlapped acquisitions circles.

Overall I think this is a good visualization.

The authors, except for the big lack of documentation, did a good job at visualizing 15 years of acquisitions.

The informed user can spot right away the biggest and famous acquisitions, while the regular user can use the application to get a good overview of the behaviour of those five IT Giants.

It would have been nice to include stock market events and trends of those years, but I fully understand how harder that would have made this nice straightforward application to code.

To conclude, I'm positively impressed by this application done by Simply Business.

Click on the Image to Open The App!

August 2014

I'm Ettore Trainiti and I've wrote this page as part of the viewver's choice project for UIC's CS424 Visualization and Visual Analytics taught by Prof. Andrew Johnson.

This guy on the left is me, some months ago, while playing a random pool game that I lost shamelessly.

I think it's a good habit to include pictures so that people can recognize or tell who wrote what.