Google and Twitter, sitting in a tree, T-A-L-K-I-N-G [UPDATED]
On his mega-megaphone TechCrunch blog, Michael Arrington reported Thursday night that "Google is in late stage negotiations to acquire Twitter," citing two people close to the negotiations. If it were true, this news would be the biggest tech bombshell of the year, with the Web's richest behemoth snapping up its biggest darling. But later, Arrington exploded his own ordnance by citing a third unnamed source who contradicted the first two by saying the talks were "still fairly early stage."
AllThingsD's Kara Swisher kicked around the shrapnel too, quoting more anonymous sources who said the rumor was bunko: “Seriously, no negotiations, no deal, nada,” the person told her, although there apparently was a discussion about "real-time search and about product stuff."
Add to that Twitter co-founder Biz Stone's straight-faced performance on the "Colbert Report" Thursday night, during which he said his company would become "strong, profitable and independent," a statement he might not make on the teetering verge of a buyout.
TechCrunch has a less than spotless record with anonymously sourced buyout rumors, including last July's dead-ender about Google almost buying Digg and last March's similar rumor that Google and Microsoft were bidding on Digg ("a sale looks like it might happen, and soon"), the latter of which made Digg Chief Executive Jay Adelson an unhappy camper. Swisher also recalls TechCrunch floating a Google-to-buy-Bebo rumor that didn't get much past the embryo stage.
Of course, this is the blogosphere, and everyone loves scuttlebutt. Plus, this one probably has truth to it, warped as it may have become. As Arrington himself says, one of Twitter's greatest assets is its searchable, 1.5 billion-tweet database, a platinum mine for marketers and info-entrepreneurs of many stripes. Adding a Google-strength search infrastructure on top of all that data would unleash the value that Twitter's limited, keyhole search engine just can't. And, seriously, Google and Twitter's business development people would be bobbing for pink slips if they weren't at least discussing some kind of tie-up.
Moreover, if the Twitter rebels are right, the natural course for the micro-messaging space is to move away from a monopoly model and splinter into a thousand networked mini-Twitters, the way e-mail became an open standard in the 1990s. If that's true, Google would be better off going with its DNA and establishing itself as the leading search provider for mini messages, crawling the Web of twitters like it does the Web of Web pages.
And I've already thought of the name for Google's real-time search engine: Glitter.
(Printing out trademark application now).
Update, 11:16 a.m.: Twitter's Stone responds to the rumors, saying what we're saying, which is that "it should come as no surprise that Twitter engages in discussions with other companies regularly and on a variety of subjects."
-- David Sarno