Google Should Buy Twitter Before The IPO

A few years ago Google had the opportunity to buy Twitter but passed on the opportunity because they were developing Google+ and didn’t think they needed it.

Today Google+ is supposedly the no. 2 social network after Facebook, but I don’t buy it. No one I know uses Google+ much, if at all. And I certainly don’t see people giving out their Google+ names on the cable news networks and other TV shows. Twitter dominates there.

Google+’s user numbers are juiced simply because Google forces the product on everyone, and if you use Google to authenticate yourself to third parties, you are using Google+.

Frankly I don’t see Google+ as being any more successful than Google Video was in competing with YouTube. I might be wrong, there might be a real base of hard core Google+ users out there who start and end their day on Google+, but I just don’t see it making any kind of mark on our culture at all.

Twitter, on the other hand, is the only really massive social network where the network effect has really kicked in. It is less than Facebook in some ways, and better than Facebook in some ways.

Google needs to buy Twitter just like they bought YouTube.

It won’t be cheap.

Twitter filed a surprisingly low range for its upcoming IPO today – $17 – $20 per share. That works out to a $11 billion valuation on the high end.

That’s lower than most people expected. And it’s just pocket change to Google. The company has added around $45 billion in market cap in just the last couple of months.

At the very least it would be a hedge against Facebook if Google+ fails (which I think it has). And on the upside Google could really let Twitter blossom, much like they have with YouTube.

Also, many people I’ve spoken with think that Twitter’s data alone would be worth tens of billions of dollars to Google’s search team.

Of course even if Google did make an offer to buy Twitter, Twitter would have to accept before it could happen. And Twitter’s current executive team is probably more interested in going it alone. “Giving up” and selling just prior to an IPO would feel like losing to them, I’d imagine.

But Twitter would still have to consider the offer because the board of directors has a fiduciary duty to shareholders. If Google offered substantially more than $11 billion, the board would find it difficult to justify turning them down.

As a user I’d like to see Twitter stay independent. But I’ve thought for years now that Google is crazy for not doing anything it could to buy Twitter. Who knows, maybe there really is something interesting going on at Google+. But I doubt it.

Disclosure: CrunchFund owns shares in Twitter. I personally own Google and Facebook stock.

63 thoughts on “Google Should Buy Twitter Before The IPO

  1. I get the google plus stuff, but I have found it an effective tool for our intranet solution. Basically utilizing it like a Yammer, replacement. I don’t consider it a social network, as much as a social tool.

  2. Jon says:

    Google needs to see 5 or 10 years down the road. Twitter has no major revenue model to compete with G or Facebook now, but as they evolve it has potential. Real time traffic is where things are moving, away from standard search terms and traditional online advertising which is where G makes their money. Twitter has this market covered, just look at any major news headline over the past few years. Twitter wins. Google + is dead in the water in that market. The company that figures out how to determine immediate attention into revenue is the new Google.

  3. As a user, I would be annoyed if Google bought it. I like its rugged independence. I think Twitter should trade on the NASDAQ though, not the NYSE. All the cool companies (Tesla, Google etc.) are on the NASDAQ. The goal would be to one day join the NASDAQ 100 with Tesla etc. A goal the board needs to seriously consider.

    After they have the IPO, their first order of business should be polling the shareholders about whether they should jump to the NASDAQ. The response to the poll would be a resounding call to action. “Grab the blue bird and leave! Now!” they’d likely yell.

    • What stock exchange a company trades on has almost no effect on the company. If you want to buy the stock you go to your broker, you don’t go directly to the exchange.

      Also, inclusion in an index should be the result of the good things a company is doing, not the goal of the company. Short-term attempts to raise the stock’s valuation may not be in the best interest of the company long-term.

  4. Dave Pinsen says:

    Would the government approve the deal?

  5. Sam Bhagwat says:

    This would all be an extremely entertaining. Once Google put in an offer, and Twitter considered it out of fiduciary responsibility, Facebook would almost *have* to put in an offer. Microsoft too — look how much money they’re spending on Bing. I’d guess in the circus the price would be bid up to ~$20B or so.

  6. Google+ actually isn’t more than a trojan horse for Google to get our demographic data, to better target ads ala Facebook. In this context, it is successful; and I think it is the only one. Twitter traditionally had an aversion to buyouts, and I would expect them to have some offers from Google in the past, but what can change their response now?

  7. I like G+ for the communities. The rest is redundant. Finding talented people is hard. They usually join communities on G+ which allows you to find them faster.

  8. “Twitter’s data alone would be worth tens of billions of dollars” – Do you know 68.4 pc of the stats are made up on the spot?

  9. This isn’t going to happen. Look at how much Tumblr sold for. Look at Instagram. When the little guys want $1 billion…….and so-so importance things like Skype want $7 billion…..if Google wants Twitter, I’d expect Twitter to go for no less than ~$12-17 billion because they will want that much and they know Google and Microsoft and Apple have that much cash. Dead serious.

    And the thing is, it’s obviously not worth that. Twitter cannot ever totally flip the “ad switch” and pollute tweets with sponsored crap, and they know it. Twitter is just a glorified RSS service, and isn’t that hard to replicate. And if Google bought it, you’d know they’d start to lock it down like they have over the years with YouTube. This would make companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Apple de-emphasize or totally sever their ties with it. All it would take from Facebook is a simple feature that says “Make This Status Update Public” and each user could have their own public-facing Twitter-like service. It’d kill the walled garden stuff a bit, but it would instantly cripply Twitter growth.

    Plus, where can Twitter really go from here? All the good usernames have been gone for years, and most people have realized it’s a horrible place for conversations. It’s a one-direction form of media, and loved by celebrities, politicians, etc. because they love to hear themselves speak. But normal folk? They don’t get it and they likely never will. Google knows this. Apple knows this. MS knows this. Which is why no one has attempted to buy them after they got large enough to want to go IPO. At this point Twitter thinks its worth far more than it really is, and anything more than a few billion would be completely wasted, even in the long run.

    Twitter’s only hope for success is acquiring other social media companies like, say, Pinterest and bundling the services together. Use a unified log-in. Pinterest could be monetized easily. Pinterest is what people should be wanting to buy. Heck, Amazon should buy Pinterest, pronto.

    • Pretty much agree with you there. Twitter is unique and therefore worth a lot of money. Google would be unstoppable with it under its belt!

    • James Howard says:

      “Under 8% of Britons have ever used twitter, 1.9% use it regularly[16]. It’s only the UK’s 27th most popular site[17], but is the most mentioned- with an average of 1,446 times per month in the national press alone.”

      In agreement with your description of Twitter. While it’s clearly invaluable to online publishers and media stars -with an existing audience- this totally skews the media discussion of it. Twitter penetration is really not that high.

      Although that’s not to say having the lions share of global influencers is not valuable…

  10. Interestingly, I’ve started to use Google Plus more in the last couple weeks. News and interesting discussions are much more discoverable there than Facebook, and the discussions are easier to follow than Twitter.

    Obviously, I’m kind of in a minority on that, though. You’re right that Google+ is severely overinflating their user count, at least active users.

    Following the occasional Linus Torvalds rant is worth having a Google+ account, though. 🙂

    • I actually use Google+ all the time, and I get decent interaction and content on there. Just a matter of putting a little work into it 🙂

    • Marius Fermi says:

      I’m with you on that one! Have you tried using the communities yet? There are a lot of them now however the early adopters have managed to get some serious followers on board and a great conversation can be started there.

      I shared an amusing Coffee Latte Art gif this week on the Coffee community (50k+ followers) and it’s up to around 300 +1’s and around another 100+ shares. Still getting notifications everyday.

      If you do G+ right the benefits are incredible!

  11. stin2289 says:

    Only 5 google plus shares. How appropriate.

  12. Google+ is my network for just about anything technical. The extremely rich content features (which Twitter obviously doesn’t have) always make for a more compelling conversation, which are often also more intellectual and interesting.

    Twitter happens to be where a lot of news is simply linked. It’s the headline. The status. Google+ is the story.

  13. Starting next year, WebRTC will go live on every browser. A real-time comm channel on every browser world-wide, video, audio, and text. Let’s see what happens to Twitter and Google+ then. I’m sure Google has some big plans.

  14. gsohn says:

    Hat dies auf Ich sag mal rebloggt und kommentierte:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  15. “I’ve thought for years now that Google is crazy for not doing anything it could to buy Twitter.”

    Who says that Google is the one preventing it?

    No way this happens. Ev’s shares are still powerful and plentiful enough for him to basically block any sale of twitter to anyone he doesn’t like. After his experience with Blogger, Google’s M&A folks would be lucky to get a phone call returned.

  16. G+ IS getting traction but it is on a long road. Sky News in Australia has G+ in their news ticker along side twitter. Malcolm Turnbull (Australian minister for comms) did a G+ hangout with a bunch of people from prominent papers and so on during the recent election. Yes it is smaller than FB and Twitter – but it IS increasing and there are plenty of unique things G+ does.

  17. Supposedly, Google tried to buy Twitter at one point. Twitter turned them down. I’m not sure that’d change now.

  18. Google+ has some specific use cases that work well, notably topical communities among early adopters. Hangouts and Circles are killer features as well. The lack of numbers on G+ proper is an advantage in that the content you view is of higher quality. The SEO benefits of Google authorship also seems to invite more content sharing.

    Twitter is more media centric and an unstoppable firehose. Looks like the two products serve divergent segments of users, so Google may yet purchase Twitter and run them both separately.

  19. Marius Fermi says:

    I use Google+ a serious amount these days, more so than Facebook and the reason for it is because of the communities function. Within the communities posting content has to be relevant otherwise you get banished etc. My point – G+ has real users unlike Twitter which I could have over 100,000 followers within 7 days however what would be the true value of it?

    G+ is a case of quality over quantity and whilst Twitter is great for interaction and instant news updates, having a meaningful conversation is far better on G+.

    For Google to buy Twitter now or any time in the future would be a crazy move, Twitter isn’t making any money and Googles Ad revenue is, I believe, beginning to reach it’s peak – Google will have to start focusing on creating new revenue steams rather than being like Amazon and focusing on the ‘future’.

  20. Philip Daly says:

    I use G+ a lot and get a lot from it. If you spend the time, you will find a lot of interesting people and some great content. But, I will concede that it’s a bit of a mystery to most as they quickly rush back to Facebook. Give it 5 years and maybe it will be what they hoped it would be, time will tell.

    The resulting behemoth from such a marriage of Google & Twitter is a scary thought… all that valuable data and the things they could do. I’m not so sure I’d like to see a future where the big guys just keep getting bigger hoovering up the remaining popular independents.

    Still, there is the danger that Yahoo may buy it and then ruin it as they always do.

  21. Thomas Hawk says:

    I can’t speak for everybody, but I will say that Google+ has had enormous success with the photography community. It’s the most social of all the photography networks and personally speaking, more of my friends use Google+ than any other social network — most of my friends though are serious photography enthusiasts.

    I use Google+, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook heavily, every day, and I spend the most time and have the most engagement at Google+.

    I think Google+ lends itself to the photography community for a number of reasons: photos look great there, they’ve spent a lot of time helping to promote photography on the site, they’ve spent a lot of effort building and developing photo tools (eg. Snapseed), photos are given more dominance than text, strong photo communities have evolved, hangouts, etc.

    Even as Flickr is rapidly improving and Instagram dominates mobile, there is a very serious core group of social photographers that spend hours every day on Google+.

    Like most social networks, you get out of it what you put into it, so I find that even when I talk about non-photography related things on G+, the conversations are still far more rich and robust than the other networks for me. For example, I wrote a blog post about why I switched from Android to the iPhone last week and a fairly lengthy and significant debate about this post ensued on Google+ with over 128 comments — granted that’s a somewhat easily controversial post, and there is also a pretty strong community of diehard Android folks on the network.

    I think Google is in Google+ for the long game though. You can’t underestimate the significance of things like Youtube, Android, Search, etc. for promoting Google+. It may take 10 years, but little things like autouploading all your Android photos to G+ (interesting to see Flickr offer a similar service to now autoupload all your iPhone photos recently) can have slower, longer-term impact. At this point Google feels like it’s pretty much all in with Google+. Whether or not it ends up with a Twitter/Facebook type inflection point and acceptance into the broader culture remains to be seen, but when these things do turn, sometimes they turn fast.

    Either way though, I think Google will continue using all of their resources to push it going forward — they are too far down the path, have invested too much and need it too badly to compete. As has been mentioned before, the demographic data and the ability to better monetize advertising (eg. the recent TOS changes which will make endorsement type ads FAR more successful and valuable on Google Search) alone make Google+ incredibly important to Google+, even with more moderate success.

    Way more photos are shared by non-photographers on Facebook (including Instagram by extension) than any other network, but the serious photography, and the photos that get the most attention, and the photo community is happening at Google+.

    This is one of Flickr’s core demographics as well and Google stole a lot of this demographic from Flickr early on — while Flickr was sleeping in their deep sleep period for many years.

    Flickr is now more serious and relevant though and I expect them to more begin to ramp up social again, especially now that they’ve given everyone a terabyte of storage and have substantially visually improved the site. Flickr’s also going to more heavily go after the Facebook/Instagram non-photographer market as well. Marisa Mayer gets social, photography and the web way more than any previous Yahoo CEO and is especially devoting a ton of resources to it right now (look how many folks Flickr has hired, and is still hiring, since she took over vs. layoffs at Flickr under previous CEOs). I think there may also be more interesting Flickr/Tumblr tie ins going forward.

    Google still may want to buy Twitter and I think this is an interesting idea. Twitter and Google+ could run independently like Facebook and Instagram run independently.

  22. I’m one of those guys who does start and end its day with G+ (so they do exist you know ;)). I don’t care about facebook but I do use twitter regularly to cover all my bases.

  23. Patricia Brown says:

    I use G+ because of its communities capabilities. I like it, but it could be better.

  24. Chris says:

    I’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of overlap among users of Google+ and Facebook. That might explain why you don’t know anyone using it. I don’t know anyone who uses twitter for anything other than yet another news channel, to be honest.

    I agree with OpenReadWrite. Twitter is way overvalued.

  25. Twitter is failing. It’s full of spam and marketing and celebrity junk. It’s MySpace circa 2008.

    If Google waits long enough they can buy it for cheap.

  26. iam says:

    yep. u r wrong…

  27. Cydramech says:

    Twitter only got its fame as a quick-shoutout tool, and that’s all it ever will be. Social networking is nonexistent on Twitter, and really just useless for the sole purpose of social networking while Google+ can provide everything Twitter already has AND more.

    The only reason Google should buy Twitter is to rescue people from the stupidity of language butchering.

  28. Twitter would be better off being acquired by Apple.

  29. Cade Roux says:

    I think a lot of G+ activity is highly engaged among groups, so to the outside it is like a dark space if you aren’t in the group. It’s a lot like facebook except more subject area focused instead of “friend” focused – most communities and circles are going to have a common topic as opposed to simply based on “friend” relationships. Because of the emphasis on circles (or the communities), you get a lot of the same relatively small groups of people highly engaged. Where Twitter is very much global – the only dark spaces are the protected users which are a small minority because Twitter doesn’t really offer any security configuration – it’s either public or private. So Twitter excels in areas like breaking news and dissemination of memes through hashtags. While G+ has hashtags, because it encourages much longer and heavier content, you don’t see the trendy memes. G+ excels at media content, both photos and video.

    Anyway, they are all very different. I find I avoid Twitter because there is a lot of garbage in my feed and the sponsored posts are annoying. I rarely use facebook because interesting posts are lost in the feed. FWIW, G+ has the same issue facebook has with not being able to really keep up like you might be able to do on Twitter if you only follow a few people, but because of circles and communities, you do have a lot more tools to control this. The UX for managing all this still needs a lot of work, so in that way it’s similar to faccebook. Twitter doesn’t have all that many options, and the ones it does have are also hard to manage because they are at the followee level – like whose RTs you see and for whom you receive mobile notifications for etc.

    I think Google would have a lot more to gain by purchasing Twitter than perhaps Facebook, since Facebook hasn’t shown any affinity to trying to get news working well.

    If Google were to purchase Twitter, they would have to run it independently like YouTube for a long time, as I don’t see it integrating particularly well into their ecosystem or their real names philosophy.

  30. I’ve been saying that for years too, Google should buy it! But’ you wrong about G+ (it’s not your typical social network…) for reasons too difficult to elaborate here….BUT Google’s ‘mojo’ and Twitter are perfect combo! Google mastered integration, and does everything opposite then ‘experts’ would do …after all they have two OS’s (Android/Chrome) which are getting more and more integrated & fast… so why not develop G+ & Twitter at the same time? Yes both! ..and they would work superbly with each other….(disclosure: I use (for different things) both and adore both…just like Android and Chrome) …and yes, let’s not forget anti trust factor here.

  31. Ray Cromwell says:

    “Google+’s user numbers are juiced simply because Google forces the product on everyone, and if you use Google to authenticate yourself to third parties, you are using Google+.”

    No, that is not how the metrics are counted. There are two metrics, the number of people who log in to G+, and the number of people “active in the stream”, that is, who +1, post content, etc.

    G+ now has over 200 million users ‘active in the stream’. These are people who are posting stuff. You say you don’t believe it, because you don’t see Journalists putting G+ handles out there, but surely your believe in Tumblr’s numbers, and you don’t see journalists handing out Tumblr addresses either. What you don’t mention is practically every journalist on TV is using G+ hangouts, HuffingtonPost, CNN, Fox, MSNBC. They’re not using Skype, Facetime, or FB to do video communication with viewers.

    G+ is more a mini-blog service than a microblog service, as such, it attracts people who prefer to have long form discussions, not broadcast the equivalent of bumper stickers. It’s not surprising to me that Twitter dominates journalism because it is the equivalent of a stock ticker, the scrolling information panels that all the media networks love.

    Twitter is in heavy use by the Technorati and Celebritati, but how many Twitter users really create content and have discussions, vs retweets? What’s lost in these numbers is the real purpose of Twitter content.

    When Google bought YouTube, they were buying a site where people were creating and uploading content — useful content — that you could sell display ads against eventually. An alternative to TV.

    What’s the long term value of historical tweets that users on Twitter have created? It’s just not as value. YouTube was bought for $1 billion. There’s no way Twitter is worth $10 billion to Google. Under what business model would the acquisition pay for itself?

    • Cade Roux says:

      Well, I think a big issue is that there is no such thing as a G+ handle like Twitter has @name. I think there are some people that have aliases which work from before when Google profiles allowed you to have a nickname and some pages work as, but that’s about it. To me this single thing does more to inhibit G+’s growth than anything else because you don’t have anything people can read on a TV or in a magazine or even hear on the radio or TV or tell someone in person.

      I think people underestimate the power of the namespace. In fact, perhaps Google has not created a namespace on purpose, because the act of creating one now after it has grown so much could in itself create so much value in an instant, that it would be impossible to manage.

      This ties into my earlier point about visibility. Without the ease of a namespace, the dark areas of G+ which are people currently in various communities and other public posts really aren’t that easily discoverable except within G+ itself.

  32. Paul says:

    I stopped using Twitter years ago when it only became a source of self-promo garbage distribution, and Facebook upped their game. The only users I still know are entrepreneurs who sink most of their days retweeting each other in a pathetic echo chamber.

    I have started using Google+ a couple of years ago, and while it will not replace Facebook in terms of use, it has definitely become a tool I use several times a times, replacing both Yammer (as a more controlled mini-intranet with different parts of my team) and to a certain extent email chains. Google+ is where I will share links I used to email to a few friends. Since Google+ is integrated into Gmail, it fits perfectly the workflow.

    Without a proper business model and with a poor product which wastes everyone’s time with more and more noise, less and less signal, Twitter IPO is going to tank and end-up in a Zynga fashion. Remember, this is not Facebook, this is just the product that tries to be like Facebook and will never make it. Sorry for the early investors, but Google is smart enough to pass on this silly acquisition idea, especially at such inflated prices.

    • Kasper Retvig says:

      Paul are you out of it… Twitter is trying to be like Facebook? That must be a joke. Facebook didn’t even use to have a new feed, their news feed is a complete copy of Twitter. Facebook is soooo mind numbingly useless!

  33. Jimm Fox says:

    Like Apple (about $137 billion in cash reserves…) Google could buy just about anyone in a position to sell. It’s clear how a purchases like the one suggested would allow Google to control even more of the web. It’s much less clear to see how users would benefit.

  34. ziad salloum says:

    I totally agree. No one in my network is using G+ even though many have registered at some point in time.
    Although the concept of circles is appealing but who will ever spend time organizing contacts into circles.
    If Google really rely on other services to lure people into G+ then they ate doing nothing but trick themselves.
    Still I never saw any added value over FB knowing that I am not an addicted user to the latter neither. However I check it 5min each week, while I check G+ 5min every 6months or more

  35. Kasper Retvig says:

    All you need to know about google+ is that. Robert Scoble thinks it’s great… #fail

  36. Karl Smith says:

    “No one I know uses Google+” … “if Google+ fails (which I think it has)” … “Who knows, maybe there really is something interesting going on at Google+. But I doubt it.”

    Hard to argue against such well sourced, empirical evidence.

  37. I used to have a facebook profile for 3.5 years which was hacked and deleted. Appealed to fb support: they didn’t care. So I created a new fb profile purely for games. There are so many problems on fb: people hide who they are with fake first names, fake surnames, fake middle names or some random nom-de-plume that they thumbsucked to look cool and become trolls to harass anyone because they’re now `anonymous’ online…

    Twitter has a fair share of porn-related crap on it… all you have to do to find it is choose a porn-related word, and stick the hash-tag in front of it. eg. #p ssy

    I still find it strange how these big portals lie about having so many people are their portals – when there are so many fake ones. There’s even a scenario where fb wants you to only add people “you know in real life” … LMAO – there’s so many people who have 3000 or more dots , not FRIENDS because they `THINK’ they’re popular when they’re not. Posing in a t-string to get friends isn’t popular…it’s being skanky…

    Regarding google-plus, I don’t have time to purse yet another portal and you’re right – no-one gives out the google-plus link … I don’t even think they’ve included the option in the social-media widgets for blogs … I definitely don’t want it there …

  38. Twitter is a link dump. G+ is long form conversation. And it amuses me that I can log in here to comment using G+, why would that be if no one uses it. Really. And stop talking about who you know, G+ is about what you know. You engage with interests, and people they follow.

  39. I think the primary reason Google+ is failing is lack of a username URL.

    True, Facebook lacked one at launch & having one isn’t a guarantee of success, but without one it’s hard for people to find you (unlike Twitter, Facebook & Instagram).

  40. Google+ disabled my pen name early on. I spend my time budget for social media first on Facebook, second on a specialty site, and the rest on Twitter. Twitter gives me news I can afford to miss. But the format is a breezy read. About half my social media time is activist stuff, the other half keeps me in touch with friends, family and acquaintances all over the world. I know only a few people on Google+ and none of us needs the service.

    I have heard many times of intranet successes and was part of the photography community before my account was suspended.

    Twitter might have a stall in the Google stable.

    I keep hearing that kids are using Twitter and Instagram and backing away from Facebook. The Twitter+Instagram has not yet been tagged with a bully disaster, has it? Myspace got that years ago, Facebook has a few recent cases.

  41. Thomas Pedersen says:

    I now this might be an unpopular point of view, but what if: Twitter works fine the way it is and they are satisfied with the money they make? I mean why is it so wrong not to grow? It’s almost like if your satisfied whit what you have your a looser.

  42. fastmap says:

    Michael, You are spot on .. Google should have bought Twitter and probably can still buy it as you allude to in your article. “Google Plus” is to social networking what “Bing” is to search.

  43. Ted Kesgar says:

    I don’t know if this is an official strategy from Redmond, but Microsoft seems to abandon attempts to challenge Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and focuses on providing better integration of all the web services in their applications. Or am I just a Microsoft-philia?

  44. Anoop Menon says:

    Hi Everyone,

    This article genuinely sparked interest in me as I am more of a facebook guy when it comes to connecting with friends and family. But recently one of my colleagues in office asked me to try out G+ for a change. Although we are using Googleapps email for years, I never looked at G+. But when I looked at it, I found it more clean, a better way to define privacy. Also the first comment on this section is news for me. If it works, then it can be a good enterprise social network to connect my employees in different locations. Thanks to Health W Black for mentioning this.

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