“Obviously, Google could continue to just pay Twitter for access to its firehose, as other services do. But now that its in-house social network has proven to be mostly useless as a social connector between its various services, it needs some other way to plug social into those services and get access to unlimited real-time data, and Twitter is arguably the best method available.”
I love Twitter (much more than Facebook). I know using a term such as “love” for what amounts to a social network is hyperbolic, but it’s close to being true. In 2006, I latched on to the service as my social network of choice because I was fascinated by it’s ability to deliver news, info, content, and “streams” in near real time. Plus, Twitter was very open with its API meaning that a whole ecosystem of 3rd party apps and services developed. Twitter, in effect, became a coral reef as Dave Winer described here back in 2007.
I had breakfast with a colleague at a tech conference in 2007, and the topic of Twitter came up as we were both checking our phones (pre iPhone) and comparing how we were accessing the service. We discussed our hopes for the service and the web, and decided that Twitter (or something very much like it) would inevitably become a new protocol similar to IMAP or POP (that we use for email still) and deliver us streams of information based on who we followed or “tracked” (track was a key feature of Twitter early on until the dark times) in whatever app we chose. Twitter was going to be this generation’s love letter to the open web and protocols and standards. We were wrong.
The web continued to evolve and social networks became prime motivators in Twitter’s unfortunate path towards becoming a silo after 2008. The last seven years have seen Twitter grasp for its identity as a cast of rotating leadership ping-ponged it from an open web alert service to a celebrity hashtag outlet to a news delivery system to an advertising network. Twitter never had a chance. That’s not because of a zero sum game with Facebook. The two could exist perfectly well and both have billions of users. They are very different services and have entirely different purposes and possible futures (much like Apple and Google or Microsoft and IBM).
Will Google buy Twitter?
I have a feeling they will. Google understands its best bet for the future is a web that exists with fewer silos and more users. That doesn’t mean simple data mining of social networks, but it also means more users on the web for the advertising of the future (which will not be based on clicks or tracked by cookies but function on very personal levels based on the uniqueness of human experience… see Google Now).