Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When will Twitter be sold?

Craig Kanalley has written a post about Google's latest initiative, Google Sign-In, and mentions some ways in which Google Sign-In exceeds the current capabilities of Facebook Connect. One example:

Google has its own mobile operating system. It's making use of that by allowing instant-app install to Android devices when one connects with Google+. For example, if an Android user signs in with Google on a partner's website, like The Guardian, he or she will have the chance to instantly install that app to their mobile device, even if visiting from a desktop computer. This is among the ways Google can make experiences seamless on mobile with its own OS.

Kanalley notes that Facebook still has one clear advantage over Google:

Facebook does own one thing Google doesn't, and it's big: the Social Graph and all the data we've inputted into Facebook. As Josh Constine wrote for TechCrunch, "Most people do not have richly filled-out Google+ profile with data to personalize apps they sign in to."

But when you read this article and other articles, it becomes clear that the social integration race is, at present, a two-horse race.

In another tech post - you know, the posts about things that don't matter - I listed a number of other companies who would certainly be interested in integration of big data: specifically, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, IBM, and Lenovo, for starters.

Twitter didn't come to mind when I assembled that list. While Twitter certainly offers sign-in capabilities that are similar to those offered by Google and Facebook, Twitter itself is (by design) an extremely limited platform that is better at offering links to content rather than content itself.

Ideally, it would be great if Twitter could partner with some larger company, probably via an acquisition by that company. A union of Company X and Twitter could then become a powerhouse that could take on Google and Facebook.

Since this is such a good idea, I knew that it wasn't original to me, and because of my non-trendiness, I'm sure that people have been discussing the ideal Twitter acquirer for months.

I was right.

This is what Jeff Macke said in November:

Microsoft needs to stop screwing around. If they want a foothold into what's on their customers' minds and what's working now, Microsoft needs to buy Twitter then leave it alone. No pop-up ads, no selling your information, no intrusion. No Facebook-ing. Just a bunch of people and their networks exchanging information on an open platform.

The information is worth billions to someone; not through conventional ads but as a platform for a bigger concept. Microsoft will be able to gather the users Facebook (FB) is losing in its quest to monetize. Microsoft has plenty of money. What they don't have is a pulse. They also don't have Twitter for the new Surface. They've got no real draw to bring users into the Microsoft tent.

Twitter is it. If Microsoft tries to "integrate" Twitter they'll screw it up immediately. But if they buy Twitter and largely leave it alone, just tweaking it enough to make it part of people's lives without all of the noise of being freestanding, it's impossible for Microsoft to overpay.

This is what Patrick Gibson said in November:

Apple and Twitter have talked before and much speculation has already been made. Most, if not all, of this speculation centered around how Apple needed to buy a social network, because Apple needed “Social” – whatever that means.

But Gibson continues:

So that’s not that argument I want to make.

I would posit that the cause Apple’s lackluster web skills stems from their inability to recruit or keep talented web engineers. Historically, if you’re into databases, servers, or web application frameworks, then Apple was probably pretty low on the list of places you aspired to work at. Apple has always positioned itself as a consumer products company, and even killed off its server hardware over the years. Mac OS X Server remains, but who knows for how long.

Where Apple falls short, Twitter flies. Not only does Twitter use some of the most advanced web technology, they invented it. They own scale. They know how to send hundreds of thousands of tweets a minute. Further, Twitter is social network with values that (used to) reflect Apple: focus and simplicity.

Apple should buy Twitter not for its social network, but for its talent and technology. That talent and technology could undoubtably help bring Apple and iCloud into the 21st century. The social network is basically an added bonus.
blog comments powered by Disqus