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Summary:

According to a news report, Twitter is in talks to acquire the U.K.-based developer of Tweetdeck for as much as $50 million. Although the deal could obviously still go off the rails, buying Tweetdeck would be a smart move for Twitter on a number of levels.

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According to a report in the Wall Street Journal  on Monday, Twitter is in “advanced talks” to buy TweetDeck, one of the leading desktop applications for accessing the real-time social information network. If successful, the Journal said Twitter could acquire the U.K.-based application developer for as much as $50 million. Although the deal could obviously go off the rails at any point, buying Tweetdeck would be a smart move for Twitter to make on a number of levels.

As we’ve written a number of times, the information network — which has been going through some executive turmoil recently — has had a fairly tense relationship with third-party developers who use its API to create apps and services. It started with the acquisition of Tweetie last year, which triggered a debate over whether Twitter was deliberately crushing or dismantling its ecosystem. (Former CEO Evan Williams later admitted that the company “screwed up.”) Those kinds of concerns returned to the forefront for many over the past couple of months, as Twitter ratcheted down the terms for use of its API and took a number of other steps to enforce its vision.

One of those steps was a crackdown on UberMedia, a well-funded startup founded by veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur Bill Gross, which has had a tumultuous relationship with Twitter despite its relatively short lifespan — and which is rumored to be working on a competing Twitter-style information network. One of Gross’s run-ins with Twitter came last year: Just days after UberMedia announced a plan to roll out an advertising platform based around tweets, Twitter announced its own similar plans, and made it clear that it would not look kindly on other apps running their own ad programs. (Coincidentally or not, Tweetdeck is one of the few apps approved to run Twitter’s ads.)

If Twitter does buy Tweetdeck, it would be a substantial blow against UberMedia for a number of reasons. The most significant is that Gross was also in talks to acquire the British-based app until fairly recently. Although it’s not clear why the acquisition never went ahead, the talks seemed to stall at about the same time that two of UberMedia’s other Twitter apps were switched off by Twitter in February, after the company said they were behaving in ways not allowed by the network’s terms of service. Buying Tweetdeck would be a clear shot across the bow of a potential competitor. That in turn would serve Twitter well at a time when it’s seen by some as being in turmoil, and therefore potentially open to attack or a loss of focus. It would also show Twitter is prepared to use the $200 million in funding it received recently for things other than just more server farms and programmers.

An acquisition would have other benefits as well, however, the most obvious being control over one of the leading “power tools” for its service. Although most casual users tend to prefer either the Twitter website or a mobile app, Tweetdeck is used by a lot of journalists, marketing professionals and others as a dashboard for their social media use. It allows for Facebook integration and has other features that also appeal to frequent users, including the ability to show multiple panes for lists, etc.

A Tweetdeck buy would also send a message to those third-party apps and services that have had a fractured relationship with the network: Try hard enough and you might get acquired. Although Twitter steered developers away from coming out with new clients in its recent statements about its API, a Tweetdeck deal — and the partnerships the network has recently announced with other Twitter-related tools such as Sulia and also with DataSift — would be a tangible sign Twitter is prepared to invest in the ecosystem, not just bulldoze it or put up fences around it.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Refracted Moments

  1. I see no reason why Twitter would not shut down tweetdeck if they succeed in the aquisition. Don’t see it being active for more than 6 months.

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    1. I suppose they could do that, but why pay $50 million to shut down a power tool that many users love?

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      1. Like Nuance shuttering Jott, yahoo shuttering mybloglog, google video closing down, cisco terminating the flip ?

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  2. Hm. I wonder what Seesmic would have to say about this.

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  3. The only problem with the idea that Twitter would buy third-party apps and services is that, unlike Google, Twitter isn’t a terribly active buyer. That said, the purchase of Tweetdeck is a no-brainer, if not for the fact Twitter doesn’t have a read/write app once people get tired of Twitter.com.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, dude :-)

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    2. I think Twitter hasn’t emerged as a buyer yet. AFAIK they’ve mainly focussed on hiring developer.

      You say that Twitter doesn’t have a read/write app. What about the Twitter app? It’s fantastic and actually made me delete Tweetdeck.

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  4. Acquiring Tweekdeck would also send a strong signal to the market about Twitter’s business intentions. Controlling one of the biggest third party client will giive twitter the leverage to expand its ad revenues stream.
    This is a very good move!!

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    1. I think “tweekdeck” is one of the funniest typos I’ve ever seen… Twitter being the meth of social networking and all

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  5. Marshall Kirkpatrick Monday, April 18, 2011

    What indication do we have that Twitter cares about the power users you mention here?

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    1. Great question! :)

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    2. Well, we don’t really have any indication that’s the case — but why wouldn’t a service care about the people who use it the most, especially media outlets and companies? To argue that they wouldn’t seems counter-intuitive. Thanks for the comment though, Marshall.

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  6. wow, so lucky uber didnt get this already…..i think twitter has no choice, tweetdeck is a big channel of tweets, that seems to be threatened to be channeled to a competing network owned by uber media

    i think its smart, but also necessary to protect itself

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  7. I think its a waste of money.
    Why Twitter not create their own desktop client ?

    Twitter created the API, surely they can build better Twitter client than near dying Tweetdeck.

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  8. I don’t get it. You’re saying that “Gross was also in talks to acquire [Tweetdeck] until fairly recently.” I was under the impression that Tweetdeck is already part of Ubermedia. An article at Mashable confirms this. Please clarify!

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    1. Bobbie Johnson Tuesday, April 19, 2011

      Jorg, if that’s what Mashable is saying, then it’s wrong. Bill Gross/Ubermedia and Tweetdeck were apparently very close to signing a deal, but they never completed.

      On a wider note, I am quite confused about the prospect of Twitter buying Tweetdeck, largely because of all the signals they’ve sent out recently suggesting that it’s one of the last things they’d be interested in. Everything has been about broadening the service at the low end, which is not Tweetdeck’s thing.

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  9. Great progress……We will get an idea about Twitter’s business purpose. But it would have been better if Twitter creates its own desktop client which can save some amount.

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  10. If they wanted to innovate in the client area, Twitter should buy Yoono instead.
    Much cheaper, the beta client already has a feature called socialzine to display most relevant tweets enriched with content from linked pages…

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