The worst thing for Twitter

Yes, Twitter is in talks to be bought by Google, but is that the worst thing that would happen to Twitter?

No, even though it’s funny to note that designer Douglas Bowman just left Google a week ago to go to work for Twitter (and did so with a public “I’m pissed and I’m leaving” letter — I guess he’ll be asked to clean toilets for a few weeks if he gets bought back into Google).

Remember, Google is the company that bought Jaiku and then did nothing with it. It’s the company that bought Dodgeball (a company that had a service very similar to Twitter that was out before Twitter). And did nothing with it (the founders of that company also wrote a “we’re leaving” letter to Google.)

Are you noticing a trend here yet? Google sucks at microblogging/social networking and I don’t believe that Google has actually changed at all. The best predictor of future results is past behavior.

So, if Twitter goes to Google there’s a great chance that it’ll be screwed up.

But, there’s something even worse awaiting it: if Twitter gets purchased by Microsoft. Or worse, Adobe or Oracle or IBM.

Why? These companies understand even less of what’s going on in the social networking space than Google does. At least Google is trying and failing. But Google makes great mobile apps and Google understands how to scale things that need scale. I can also see how Google would integrate Twitter search into its search pages.

Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn’t deserve to get Twitter. Microsoft has totally screwed up its online branding and search. It’s pretty incompetent in those areas and has been for years. Yeah, I know that Microsoft has thousands of employees who’ll call me names on their blogs and yeah I know that Microsoft has thousands of fans, er, MVPs, who’ll tell you at length why I’m wrong.

But when I go around SXSW or Gnomedex or Northern Voice and ask people what they use from Microsoft I get blank stares. Microsoft has lost the Internet generation because they simply have not done anything interesting. Spending another $100 million on advertising is not going to change that.

Heck, they should stop the advertising, use the $100 million to get Twitter’s attention and buy it. But that’s what Microsoft would do if it had real Internet leadership that understood just how important Twitter’s search feature will be to getting Microsoft noticed in the search game.

Here: what will work better to get more people to feel good about Microsoft? Spending $100 million on TV ads? Or using that money to buy Twitter?

No brainer for me.

But here’s the problem: I don’t believe Microsoft wants to get the Internet. So, if Microsoft DID wake up and buy Twitter it would be a horrid place for Twitter to be. It would stagnate even worse there than it would at Google.

Which is why, even though I don’t like Twitter’s management team that much, I’m hoping that they sell to Google instead of Microsoft. At least then it has a chance of success, Google’s poor track record in this area notwithstanding.

88 thoughts on “The worst thing for Twitter

  1. Great article, Robert. I definitely agree 100% with Microsoft being totally clueless in both the Search and Online aspect. Also, given that Google has totally flopped with Jaiku and Dodgeball, why would it be good if they bought Twitter? You mentioned that Google is not too brilliant in the micro-blogging sphere so this would no doubt be a bad move for Twitter in the long run (in the short run, Twitter will be given a handsome buyout sum, I’m sure). What I found most interesting is that you didn’t mention Facebook and their role in this “Twitter saga”. According to BusinessWeek, Facebook actually made a bid for Twitter in the ballpark of $500 million last year. It will be interesting to see what happens to Twitter, but in my opinion, I think they should remain as their own company and not succumb to these large amounts of money that these huge corporations will throw their way. Being bought out by one of these companies will lead to its demise as it will kill innovation. See Jaiku and Dodgeball for reference. If Twitter can finally come up with a good business model, it will prosper.

  2. Great article, Robert. I definitely agree 100% with Microsoft being totally clueless in both the Search and Online aspect. Also, given that Google has totally flopped with Jaiku and Dodgeball, why would it be good if they bought Twitter? You mentioned that Google is not too brilliant in the micro-blogging sphere so this would no doubt be a bad move for Twitter in the long run (in the short run, Twitter will be given a handsome buyout sum, I’m sure). What I found most interesting is that you didn’t mention Facebook and their role in this “Twitter saga”. According to BusinessWeek, Facebook actually made a bid for Twitter in the ballpark of $500 million last year. It will be interesting to see what happens to Twitter, but in my opinion, I think they should remain as their own company and not succumb to these large amounts of money that these huge corporations will throw their way. Being bought out by one of these companies will lead to its demise as it will kill innovation. See Jaiku and Dodgeball for reference. If Twitter can finally come up with a good business model, it will prosper.

  3. I agree with Pedro’s comment about not tampering with the brand, similar to what they did with YouTube. I also think that Google’s Gmail anti-spam team would be able to mitigate the growing span issue. And I’d love to see Google bring real-time Track) back to Twitter. They could put that under the Google Alerts product and route the Track results directly into GTalk. Lots of possibilities if they do this right.

  4. I agree with Pedro’s comment about not tampering with the brand, similar to what they did with YouTube. I also think that Google’s Gmail anti-spam team would be able to mitigate the growing span issue. And I’d love to see Google bring real-time Track) back to Twitter. They could put that under the Google Alerts product and route the Track results directly into GTalk. Lots of possibilities if they do this right.

  5. Robert: I suspect the user base last year is much different a than the masses that are signing up now. I’m saying people will tune in, check it out, then the majority (not the geeks, social media crowd, celebrities) will eventually become tired of the time sink it actually is for the majority of people.

    Look at FB. It servers 1 really good purpose to keep your idle account, because you want to know that someone you know from your past who has no other way to find you, could contact you out of the blue — its basically a Yellow Pages for email. Even if you didn’t like their attempts at a new terms of service, it’s a big deal to cut your account and with it your connection to your past.

    Twitter on the other hand is all about right now and it’s content is old within hours. There is no network of personal (real) friends that define you. It goes against everything about personal productivity (hmm.. taps into the procrastinator in all of us. Smart). I can see the minority sticking with it, I just believe the majority of people will either not get it or see it for what it is, a time waste.

    I strongly believe Twitter will become an important way of subscribing to feeds from brands, celebrities, and content creators. But as an active participating community I think it’s own growth of users will be it’s demise as the signal to noise ratio becomes too high for the average person to bear.

    Who knows, maybe I’m wrong and we are all social egomaniacs that want the world to hear about our boring lives?

    Now what if Yahoo! was to buy Twitter and make itself relevant again? They have the partnerships and content providers behind them (as do MS NBC) to be able to exploit Twitter as a channel to users, whereas Google would just be buying it to put ads around the tweets.

  6. Robert: I suspect the user base last year is much different a than the masses that are signing up now. I’m saying people will tune in, check it out, then the majority (not the geeks, social media crowd, celebrities) will eventually become tired of the time sink it actually is for the majority of people.

    Look at FB. It servers 1 really good purpose to keep your idle account, because you want to know that someone you know from your past who has no other way to find you, could contact you out of the blue — its basically a Yellow Pages for email. Even if you didn’t like their attempts at a new terms of service, it’s a big deal to cut your account and with it your connection to your past.

    Twitter on the other hand is all about right now and it’s content is old within hours. There is no network of personal (real) friends that define you. It goes against everything about personal productivity (hmm.. taps into the procrastinator in all of us. Smart). I can see the minority sticking with it, I just believe the majority of people will either not get it or see it for what it is, a time waste.

    I strongly believe Twitter will become an important way of subscribing to feeds from brands, celebrities, and content creators. But as an active participating community I think it’s own growth of users will be it’s demise as the signal to noise ratio becomes too high for the average person to bear.

    Who knows, maybe I’m wrong and we are all social egomaniacs that want the world to hear about our boring lives?

    Now what if Yahoo! was to buy Twitter and make itself relevant again? They have the partnerships and content providers behind them (as do MS NBC) to be able to exploit Twitter as a channel to users, whereas Google would just be buying it to put ads around the tweets.

  7. Back in the day, email was segmented by service — i.e. if you were on AOL you could only send/receive mail to other AOL members. As the microblogging platform matures, I really wonder if we’ll all accept using one singular walled service like Twitter, or if Laconi.ca (or another open instance) will really take off in its place. Seems like Google would have been better off in the long run making Jaiku open source but indexing it across all platforms.

  8. Back in the day, email was segmented by service — i.e. if you were on AOL you could only send/receive mail to other AOL members. As the microblogging platform matures, I really wonder if we’ll all accept using one singular walled service like Twitter, or if Laconi.ca (or another open instance) will really take off in its place. Seems like Google would have been better off in the long run making Jaiku open source but indexing it across all platforms.

  9. I disagreed with your thoughts on the new Facebook redesign but I totally agree with this. If Google buys Twitter, the chances are average to high they will screw it up – whether intentionally or not. Dodgeball, Jaiku, even Feedburner is a train-wreck now, having been stripped of some of it’s best features, its ease of use etc.

    I would love Twitter to stay independent. It’s got plenty of boom time growth in it yet (I mean c’mon, it’s not even at 10 million users!).

  10. I disagreed with your thoughts on the new Facebook redesign but I totally agree with this. If Google buys Twitter, the chances are average to high they will screw it up – whether intentionally or not. Dodgeball, Jaiku, even Feedburner is a train-wreck now, having been stripped of some of it’s best features, its ease of use etc.

    I would love Twitter to stay independent. It’s got plenty of boom time growth in it yet (I mean c’mon, it’s not even at 10 million users!).

  11. That’s funny. I just wrote the same thing on your last post. Google sucks at social. They will kill Twitter by freezing it while they attempt to integrate it.

  12. If I were @biz @ev etc. at Twitter – I wouldn’t sell Twitter to @Google but to the users in micro shares. It’s an app – sell it like an app.

    That’s my take in 140 :)

    Cheers
    @jpenti or @jomitodotcom

  13. If I were @biz @ev etc. at Twitter – I wouldn’t sell Twitter to @Google but to the users in micro shares. It’s an app – sell it like an app.

    That’s my take in 140 :)

    Cheers
    @jpenti or @jomitodotcom

  14. Adam: you’ve already been proven wrong. Twitter last year was down frequently and no one left except for some weirdos who went to Plurk. No one will leave Twitter anytime soon.

  15. Adam: you’ve already been proven wrong. Twitter last year was down frequently and no one left except for some weirdos who went to Plurk. No one will leave Twitter anytime soon.

  16. Google would be a better company for a Twitter acquisition than companies like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, agreed. I could even envision some interesting integration opportunities with YouTube and G-mail that, if done well, could tie together their communications offerings in some intriguing ways.

    However, I am unsure that they have the focus on social media to pull off the integration offerings that would be possible. For my money I’d be happier to see an acquirer like Facebook come to the table as this would ultimately lead to a much better social media platform for consumers, businesses, advertisers. In the end, that’s what we need more than another Google purchase that languishes.

    John
    http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com
    http://www.twitter.com/JohnFMoore

  17. Google would be a better company for a Twitter acquisition than companies like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, agreed. I could even envision some interesting integration opportunities with YouTube and G-mail that, if done well, could tie together their communications offerings in some intriguing ways.

    However, I am unsure that they have the focus on social media to pull off the integration offerings that would be possible. For my money I’d be happier to see an acquirer like Facebook come to the table as this would ultimately lead to a much better social media platform for consumers, businesses, advertisers. In the end, that’s what we need more than another Google purchase that languishes.

    John
    http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com
    http://www.twitter.com/JohnFMoore

  18. If they buy it I hope they do it with the same mentality than they did with Youtube..”if it isn’t broken don’t try to fix it”.

  19. If they buy it I hope they do it with the same mentality than they did with Youtube..”if it isn’t broken don’t try to fix it”.

  20. I’m in favour of more competition which leaves to innovation, however… have you also thought about what will happen to Twitter if it does NOT sell to anyone?

    Twitter is on the up and up at the moment in terms of user base and the only “content” is has that is bringing all those users is the hype surrounding it. Do you seriously believe all those new users will still be there in 3, 6, 12 months time?

    So in my opinion this is Twitter’s $1B moment that Mark Z turned down and will regret forever. I’m not saying Twitter is useless, but think about it… it is just 140 characters to spam the world with your thoughts. When the hype settles there will be about 95% of the population following 5% who actually have anything interesting to write (sorry Robert, ‘Likes’ of everything you read does not count as interesting forever).

    If I were them, I would sell now and move on to the next big idea to grow.

    As for Google vs Microsoft, no content Google. Either the will let it continue in its current form (there is not much room to screw up a service that lets you only post 140 characters) and so long as they keep the brands separate to avoid the perception of evil, the masses will still use it while the techno elite will move on.

  21. I’m in favour of more competition which leaves to innovation, however… have you also thought about what will happen to Twitter if it does NOT sell to anyone?

    Twitter is on the up and up at the moment in terms of user base and the only “content” is has that is bringing all those users is the hype surrounding it. Do you seriously believe all those new users will still be there in 3, 6, 12 months time?

    So in my opinion this is Twitter’s $1B moment that Mark Z turned down and will regret forever. I’m not saying Twitter is useless, but think about it… it is just 140 characters to spam the world with your thoughts. When the hype settles there will be about 95% of the population following 5% who actually have anything interesting to write (sorry Robert, ‘Likes’ of everything you read does not count as interesting forever).

    If I were them, I would sell now and move on to the next big idea to grow.

    As for Google vs Microsoft, no content Google. Either the will let it continue in its current form (there is not much room to screw up a service that lets you only post 140 characters) and so long as they keep the brands separate to avoid the perception of evil, the masses will still use it while the techno elite will move on.

  22. (Speaking out of my butt here) Is it possible that Google does not want any micro-blogging out there? Is it possible that they want the web as it is? If this is not the case, then we can be hopeful, since three’s a charm :)

  23. (Speaking out of my butt here) Is it possible that Google does not want any micro-blogging out there? Is it possible that they want the web as it is? If this is not the case, then we can be hopeful, since three’s a charm :)

  24. Moksh: I think I just did here in the comments. Google will understand what to do with Twitter Search, far more than Microsoft or other companies like Oracle, SAP, or Adobe would.

  25. Moksh: I think I just did here in the comments. Google will understand what to do with Twitter Search, far more than Microsoft or other companies like Oracle, SAP, or Adobe would.

  26. Marina: you actually are making a good case for why Google SHOULD buy Twitter and why it might actually be successful with Twitter where it wasn’t with Douglas Bowman or Dodgeball or Jaiku. Twitter’s value is in its search interface at http://search.twitter.com and in its group of applications like Twhirl and Tweetdeck that use search to get data out of Twitter. Google will understand those pieces well and do some interesting things with them. I’m just not convinced that Google gets the other parts like how to build a strong community and how to make a social network that people want to use.

  27. “But when I go around SXSW or Gnomedex or Northern Voice and ask people what they use from Microsoft I get blank stares.” Sadly, there is an entire generation hooked on MS Office like the US on Gasoline. As we go into the cloud google docs , numsum etc gets traction, especially with the younger set. Nothing kills innovation worse then a monopolist. Stay away from twitter Gates!

  28. Marina: you actually are making a good case for why Google SHOULD buy Twitter and why it might actually be successful with Twitter where it wasn’t with Douglas Bowman or Dodgeball or Jaiku. Twitter’s value is in its search interface at http://search.twitter.com and in its group of applications like Twhirl and Tweetdeck that use search to get data out of Twitter. Google will understand those pieces well and do some interesting things with them. I’m just not convinced that Google gets the other parts like how to build a strong community and how to make a social network that people want to use.

  29. “But when I go around SXSW or Gnomedex or Northern Voice and ask people what they use from Microsoft I get blank stares.” Sadly, there is an entire generation hooked on MS Office like the US on Gasoline. As we go into the cloud google docs , numsum etc gets traction, especially with the younger set. Nothing kills innovation worse then a monopolist. Stay away from twitter Gates!

  30. It may be naivete, but I have faith that Google won’t muck about with Twitter a great deal. Personally I’d like to see some solid integration with current Google services (Google Reader is a lifeline for me, as an example) and hopefully a plan to start turning some profit.

    As for the Jaiku situation, I’d like to think that Twitter’s popularity will save it from experiencing the same fate.

    I completely agree with your rationale re: Microsoft and Twitter, though.

  31. You surely should have commented a para on the search function improvement, if Google takes on Twitter. That would be interesting to know your perspective on.

  32. It may be naivete, but I have faith that Google won’t muck about with Twitter a great deal. Personally I’d like to see some solid integration with current Google services (Google Reader is a lifeline for me, as an example) and hopefully a plan to start turning some profit.

    As for the Jaiku situation, I’d like to think that Twitter’s popularity will save it from experiencing the same fate.

    I completely agree with your rationale re: Microsoft and Twitter, though.

  33. You surely should have commented a para on the search function improvement, if Google takes on Twitter. That would be interesting to know your perspective on.

  34. I just don’t get Google. Clearly, they rock at search — that’s great. Why can’t they stay within their core competency and stop mucking up everything else? I’m an efficiency consultant, and GMail and GReader are atrocious in terms of productivity. (No nested folders? No smartlists? No distinction between descriptive tags and action tags? I could go on forever…)

    Twitter’s in a precarious enough position as it is, and being purchased by Google would only make it worse.

  35. I just don’t get Google. Clearly, they rock at search — that’s great. Why can’t they stay within their core competency and stop mucking up everything else? I’m an efficiency consultant, and GMail and GReader are atrocious in terms of productivity. (No nested folders? No smartlists? No distinction between descriptive tags and action tags? I could go on forever…)

    Twitter’s in a precarious enough position as it is, and being purchased by Google would only make it worse.

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