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.