Sometimes all you need is a map to see where a company is going, or where it got on the wrong track. Take a look at the eBay acquisitions above plotted as a subway map created by the folks at MeetTheBoss. Click on it for a larger, clearer map. (They also did the same thing for Amazon acquisitions).
The map is color-coded, with different subway lines representing different categories of acquisitions. As long as eBay sticks to central lines close to its main business, its acquisitions have done pretty well. For instance, the yellow line is online auctions (iBazaar, Internet Auction Co., GMarket), orange is retail (Half.com, Shopping.com), and violet is e-commerce (PayPal, Bill Me Later, StubHub).
It’s when eBay has veered off far away from its core business that it’s gotten into trouble. You can see that here by the darker orange VOIP line (Skype), the red Social line (StumbleUpon), and brown Auction House line (remember Butterfield & Butterfield?). Even the pink Classifieds line has been a mixed bag. eBay’s investment in Craigslist certainly didn’t help it much, and it is still struggling to make a splash in the U.S.
(Hat tip to reader Ciaran Duffy).