by C.G. Lynch

Would Twitter Have a Better Home at Google or Facebook?

Apr 03, 20092 mins
Enterprise Applications

The speculation that Google is likely in talks to acquire Twitter shouldn’t be surprising. The Twitter founders already entertained offers from Facebook as well. As a result, Twitter will have a choice: sell to a company that connects people to information, or to one that connects people with people. Based on the nature of Twitter, the choice might not be so straightforward.

Michael Arrington of Techcrunch, who broke the story, made a compelling case as to why Twitter would work well as a Google property. Because Twitter is a never-ending stream of content, the most powerful way to utilize (and monetize) it could rest in search — something Google knows a thing or two about.

As Arrington wrote:

People searching for news. Brands searching for feedback. That’s valuable stuff. Twitter knows it, too. They’re going to build their business model on it. Forget small time payments from users for pro accounts and other features, all they have to do is keep growing the base and gather more and more of those emotional grunts. In aggregate it’s extremely valuable. And as Google has shown, search is vastly monetizable — somewhere around 40 percent of all online advertising revenue goes to ads on search listings today.

We pump lots of information into Twitter, and Google has shown, time and again, that it’s the mechanism on the Web that lets us sort through that information.

But to me, Twitter is just as much about people as it is information, and that’s where a Google acquisition falls a little short. While Google’s social team has been making some innovative products (like Friend Connect), the company hasn’t been the place where people want to connect with the people important to them in their life; Facebook has been that place for a couple years now.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Facebook would be the best fit, either. Facebook, by its nature, encourages closed, or at least more intimate, networks. Everyone I’ve “friended” on Facebook I know fairly well, or at the very least could pick out of a crowd. The same is not true on Twitter. It’s open and expansive, and, as some people fear, a Twitter acquisition by Facebook could effectively ruin the open nature of the service.