Google might be about to buy Twitter, the internet’s latest craze. Rumours on the web suggest the two companies are in negotiations, with estimates that any sale could cost Google $250m. But - as is the perennial problem with social networking sites - even if Google does cough up the money, there’s no guarantee it will have any idea how to make Twitter profitable.
It had to happen sooner or later. In its quest to remain the cool kid of the internet, Google has a history of making ‘buy now, work out the business plan later’ acquisitions. As a result, it’s previously paid huge sums for internet platforms such as Blogger and YouTube. Google splashed out a whopping $1.7 billion on the latter in 2006, even though the site made no money at the time.
Three years later, and the company is still trying to find the best way to make a profit from the video site. Blogger’s potential also remains largely untapped. Some cynics believe Google is aiming to undercut the competition and put them out of business, before making people pay to use the site once there’s no alternative.
But Google can’t go on simply bankrolling every new craze to hit the internet. There are already plenty of websites out there that have likely been launched with only one aim: to be bought by Google. Indeed, Twitter could be one of them, given that owners Evan Williams and Biz Stone were the brains behind the aforementioned Blogger, which they sold to Google for an undisclosed fee in 2003. Now they look like repeating that trick. Nice work if you can get it.
Still, Google’s executives might see the Twitter experiment as a welcome distraction from the rising opposition to its Street View application. Residents in Broughton, Buckinghamshire, have taken protests to a new level by blockading one of the cars used to take the pictures. Maybe splashing out over $500m on one of the most popular websites on the internet is worth it just to win back a bit of the public’s love. Either way, Google clearly doesn’t think Twitter’s twaddle.