Sarah Lacy, as we were taping her Tech Ticker video show earlier today, asked me about San Francisco-based startup Twitter and its rumored fundraising effort, which would value it in excess of $250 million. Should the company, she asked, put itself up for sale? My answer was “it depends” — on whether Twitter sees itself a service or a platform that would help foster a lot of services on top of itself.
Later, Lacy wondered if Twitter should sell (out) to Facebook or Google or someone else. And now Kara Swisher is wondering if someone should take another run at the company. As I told Lacy, Twitter needs to swing for the fences. Ev Williams already has a notch on his belt — he sold Blogger to Google — and doesn’t need to cash out now. In the meantime, venture capitalists are lining up, ready to fund the company. In other words, he should go for gold.
Twitter, like Facebook, is on the leading edge of the real-time web, which is itself comprised of social micro-content. Thanks to the proliferation of personal Internet devices, digital camera phones and other such gizmos, more and more people are expressing themselves online by sharing photos, videos and of course sending out tweets. Nearly 150 million or so folks use Facebook as a repository of their digital lives, using the service to transmit the information to their friends and family (or even random people.)
While Facebook’s system is closed, startups like Twitter and lesser-known FriendFeed have an opportunity to create more eclectic environments that blend the best of the web. Twitter has the opportunity to help foster a more democratic ecosystem in which multiple Twitter feeder services can live off the platform. A good example would be Twitpic, which allows you to share photos with your Twitter friends, and has seen huge growth in its traffic over the past few months. With more add-on offerings, Twitter will help encourage more such live content.
Like a torrential downpour, the ensuing data flood caused by live content is going to require a new kind of search methodology that can also help put context around this information. With this in mind, last July Twitter acquired Summize, a search engine that could sift through Twitter data streams and make sense of them. (Related post: Can Serendipity Make You Rich?)
Of course, since Ev & Co. are the ones running the company, they could opt to take the easy way out.