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Google May Buy Twitter. Or Not. But Why is Twitter So Hot?

After a long day of meetings and many sleepless days this week, I decided to go to sleep early last night. I guess I missed the late-breaking rumor that Google may be buying hot micro-blogging/messaging service Twitter for ungodly sums of money. When I read the headline this morning, the first image that popped into my head was this scene from “King Kong,” with Twitter as Naomi Watts.

A few clicks later, when at Kara Swisher’s blog, I learned that no, Google is not buying Twitter, as originally reported by TechCrunch. The two companies are apparently involved in product discussions. True or not, however, I get the feeling this acquisition rumor is going to dominate the conversation.

At present, Twitter is having a media honeymoon. Not a weekend passes when The New York Times doesn’t devote a considerable part of its expensive newsprint to Twitter. Jon Stewart jokes about it. Even Playboy models have Twitter accounts! In today’s dismal economic climate, thanks to its simplicity and its chameleon-like ability to be “many things to many people,” Twitter in many ways has come to represent the zeitgeist. No wonder some hip-hop moguls want to invest in the company.

A few weeks ago, I told Jemima Kiss of The Guardian that Twitter was like a megaphone for everyone on the planet. And that’s what makes it so powerful. Yesterday, I had the same conversation with German Radio reporter Marcus Schuler, who’s in town attending the Web 2.0 Expo. I tried to explain that Twitter is the most visible manifestation of three major trends on the web that should be viewed together:

1. The web is transitioning from mere interactivity to a more dynamic, real-time web where read-write functions are heading towards balanced synchronicity. The real-time web, as I have argued in the past, is the next logical step in the Internet’s evolution. (read)
2. The complete disaggregation of the web in parallel with the slow decline of the destination web. (read)
3. More and more people are publishing more and more “social objects” and sharing them online. That data deluge is creating a new kind of search opportunity. (read)

Twitter essentially embodies those macro trends but hides them behind the elegant simplicity of 140 characters. Twitter, in fact, is not just a company — instead it has become a verb — and in the process, actually represents a certain way of doing things. That’s why I’ve maintained that Twitter shouldn’t really sell…at least not now!

As it turns out, even Twitter management is thinking about going long on their company. Last night Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told Stephen Colbert that they’re in it for the long haul and want to turn fast-growing Twitter into a big company. Remember, they turned down Facebook, which wanted to buy them for $500 million. They can hold out for more — especially if Google does get desperate. When will that be? When Larry and Sergey start tweeting. Of course, in the interim, you can follow me on Twitter.

Updated: Twitter co-founder Biz Stone writes on the Twitter blog:

My inbox is flooded this morning with requests for a response to the latest Internet speculation about where Twitter is headed. It should come as no surprise that Twitter engages in discussions with other companies regularly and on a variety of subjects. Our goal is to build a profitable, independent company and we’re just getting started.

Author Archive for Om Malik


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