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Twitter acquisition rumors on fire

Michael Arrington started a firestorm of tweets last night and blogs posts this morning by announcing that he heard rumors that Google was in talks to acquire Twitter. Kara Swishes says it isn’t so. She’s probably right, but I can imagine Google is keeping its eye on Twitter. It’s a good match for Google.

Twitter is sometimes called a micro-blogging service in part because it has much of the feel of a blogging tool. It’s not just that it restricts “posts” to 140 characters, it’s that by nature of its small message size it promotes “blogging” frequency from a PC, cellphone, or whatever and that in turn gives it even more of a real-time flavor than other tools.

Some of have been questioning whether Twitter is a good match for Google or Microsoft or Company X. I think it’s a best match for Google in part because it could easily be transitioned over into a Google silo that slowly gets integrated in to Google’s other properties. You might imagine Twitter being integrated in much like Google has done with YouTube.

An advantage of Twitter’s real-time nature and increasingly widespread adoption (who hasn’t heard Twitter mentioned on TV news in the last month?) is that it can be searched in real-time too. There aren’t many places you can go on the web to find out what lots of people are saying right now about something. That’s what’s different here.

Now some say Google already has trend-analysis and blog searching tools. Yes, but think of their cost. They have to scrape and prune web pages filled with ads or other ignorable content or handle RSS feeds (often with partial content) all as quickly as they can. That takes a fair amount of compute power and electricity and…you get it.

So imagine Google leveraging Twitter’s content and infrastructure instead for its frontline trend analysis. The posts are smaller. The posts aren’t cluttered with extraneous content. The content data flow has a known pathway. In other words, the computational cost of processing Twitter content is going to be less than do the comparable analysis in standard blog posts. That’s the win.

Let’s say Twitter takes 1/5th the computational power. What does that save in terms of hardware? Electricity? Administration costs? And so on.

You’d still have to index and crawl standard blog content as well as Twitter status messages, but there’s definitely an opportunity to prioritize resources and save money yet still increased value.

Beyond this, there’s also still an opportunity for ads and the like, just as there is with other web content. However, to me, there’s a strong case for engineering practicality.

As for Microsoft, I don’t see as good a match here. Even though Microsoft employees and community seem to be adopting Twitter in fairly visible numbers (like at Mix09 and a partnership project like ExecTweets) and therefore would probably have to switch services if Google purchased Twitter, I don’t think this would be a big deal for Microsoft. They can build their own status update service, kind of like what they are doing now with Live. And if they don’t want to build their own, I imagine there’s always the more Twitter-looking Facebook.

Finally, the Twitter model doesn’t really fit into the all-in-one Live model even if it does fit in at a descriptive level. You can see how the engineering and positioning of Twitter are from a different DNA than Microsoft MSN-slash-AOL thinking. Might Microsoft want to become more Twitter like as Facebook has? Absolutely. But does Microsoft need to purchase Twitter do this? I don’t think so. They might if let’s say Google was to purchase Facebook. Microsoft would see Twitter as a competitive match. However, outside of this, I don’t see a Twitter-Microsoft deal. Google, yes. Microsoft, no.

Update: Michael Arrington provides a follow-up post in which he speculates on a price north of $1B for Twitter. That sounds like pretty optimistic to me–especially in this market. However, if someone’s willing to pay, why not? Personally, I wouldn’t marry a business with someone that tries to be unreasonable, but that’s just my suggestion here.

While there’s some background discussion about terms, a Google indexing arrangement goes forth. Arrington says it’s about efficiency–gaining real-time access to Twitter’s updates rather than having to poll the user pages. This hints at the compelling value there would be for Google, as I outlined earlier, for bringing Twitter inhouse as a primary real-time user feed rather than having to crawl and index html content. It’s about efficiency.

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