TechCrunch reported late last night that Twitter was in late stage talks to be acquired by Google. That sent what used to be called the “blogosphere” into a frenzy. Kara Swisher, of AllThingsD, striking back against what she believes was sloppy journalism (and TechCrunch more generally), said no:
In fact, Twitter and Google have simply been engaged in “some product-related discussions,” according to one source, around real-time search and the search giant better crawling the microblogging service.
Said a source close to Twitter: “There was a discussion with [Google executive Marissa Mayer's] group about real-time search and about product stuff. It was a couple weeks ago. It was very preliminary…and that was that.”
Almost immediately the “Google vs. Microsoft: who will win?” discussion kicked back in. However, I agree with TechFlash’s Todd Bishop that Microsoft should be looking seriously at Twitter, which has already become an arguably more effective marketing vehicle than Facebook (which unsuccessfully tried to buy the site in an all stock deal). Twitter would still be a fraction of the cost that it would take to acquire Facebook.
Assuming Swisher is correct that there are product-level discussions between Twitter and Google about incorporating Twitter content (tweets) into Google results, it’s a smart thing for both companies. Often a “strategic partnership” is a prelude to an acquisition however. And we can say with almost 100 percent certainty that Twitter will be acquired; it’s just on too much of a tear to not be.
Even though it has almost completely disappeared from the market otherwise, the old logic is operating in this case: “I have to get that asset or my competitor will.”
Postscript: Twitter co-founder Biz Stone was on The Colbert Report last night and said that Twitter was going to remain an “strong, independent” company and that the service would be extended globally to the world’s “four billion mobile phones.” He also said the company would begin “experimenting” with revenue models this year and likened the company’s trajectory to Google.
Does that mean he’s thinking about an IPO in the future or is that simply the requisite talk that we would expect him to make in a public setting? The fact that there were serious acquisition discussions between Facebook and Twitter does strongly suggest that the company is thinking about allowing itself to be acquired (certainly the investors are thinking that way). An IPO for Twitter, even if it had 200 million users around the world still seems very unlikely.
Postscript From Danny Sullivan: A key question is whether Google would even be allowed to acquire Twitter, if it wanted. Microsoft led the lobbying to stop the Google-Yahoo ad partnership deal from happening, and that wasn’t even an aquisition. With Twitter now one of the important and new areas of search (real time search), I’d expect any attempt by Google to acquire it to be challenged by Microsoft as giving Google yet too much control over search. I’d also expect Microsoft to get into a bidding war for Twittter, but the anti-trust threat also gives them a stick to go with any carrot they wanted to dangle in front of Twitter.