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Why Twitter Would Be Smart to Buy Tweetdeck

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According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (s nws) 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

22 Responses to “Why Twitter Would Be Smart to Buy Tweetdeck”

  1. Great article.

    I think that between 140+ character tweets and Facebook integration in TweetDeck — and that Twitter could do what TweetDeck does by buying something much cheaper or developing something themselves, this has got to be about spending $50m to kill it/keep it out of Uber’s hands. OMG, don’t do it. What a waste of resources. And for what: Keeping it out of Uber’s hands? Not necessary, let them buy it. Then buy the while thing for $50m. Or let them try to compete. Even though we’ve seen myspace and friendster overtaken and effectively killed by facebook, twitter is too established. From my perspective as a Twitter developer of a high-end solution, I’d like to have Uber do it and have another channel for my product, but I think it is a longshot. But we’ll see. Life in interesting..

  2. My view is against this deal. Twitter is forced to move out of its track here by the people suggesting to buy TweetDeck. The acquisition can only benefit them to acquire talent. This is maximum what they can get from the british company.

    I like TweetDeck but dont expect Twitter to run a integrated platform that has Facebook and other networks in it within its offerings. So the option is only to kill it. But how will that benefit Twitter? Seeismic or some other apps will rise to that level and Twitter will again need to get $50M from the investors to buy it out!! This is going to be a all loss game.

    Other reality is that Twitter lacks strong Analytics frame work to support the ad network, and it needs to provide some statistics on pages for free too. This will help companies track their pages and get more aggressive in spending money in Twitter. This is inline with what Facebook did.

    Here Twitter seem to be more concerned about uberMedia than Facebook. This is fundamentally a wrong strategy. Any growth by the ecosystem can only benefit Twitter, and uberMedia will never be able to kill Twitter. But Facebook has actually killed it in many ways. Now most social savvy folks use Facebook, so are the brands. And they are not using it for what Facebook was — networking with friends and family; but they are using it for information sharing and transmission. This was Twitter’s USP!!!

    Now uberMedia and Facebook, both are invested by Accel Capital. And the folks at the investment company might be happy to see Twitter losing its track. This is sure to pave way for complete domination of Social Media space by Facebook (as Google’s Orkut and MySpace has already lost the race).

    My suggestion : Twitter should focus on being stronger and better than on killing anyone. It should choose its competition wisely.

    @mathew, would like to get your view on it! Btw, as always you have written a great article.

  3. LosFelizRider

    Small correction: Bill Gross isn’t a “veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur”; he’s firmly based in Pasadena/southern California. For more than a decade, he’s been a huge part of the soCal tech/startup scene.

  4. personally i dont like tweetdeck. but i am more a casual twitter user, therefore cant really complain about it.

    twitter is in many ways really usefull, but still somehwo like the “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. everyone says its great and nobody dares to say its pretty useless.

    I wish it would be more feature, than a stand alone service

  5. 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…

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

    • Bobbie Johnson

      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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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!!

  11. 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