Google should just buy Twitter already. At any price.

I’ve been thinking more about Google+ since my TechCrunch post on the Google circles colliding.

Even if you buy the argument that categorizing your friends into buckets offers user value (which I don’t), that is not a defensible feature for Google. Facebook could replicate that functionality in weeks, if not days.

And sitting on top of years of interaction data, Facebook could do it better. Based on your interrelationships, Facebook could suggest which friends to put in to the college bucket, friends bucket, best friends, ex-girlfriends, etc. That would create the value of Circles without the upfront pain of manually categorizing your relationships.

As it’s currently structured, Google+ is a bigger threat to Twitter than to Facebook. (Even then, just based on network effects, I don’t think it’s a big threat.) Twitter is a simple but extremely clunky platform. A lot of the constraints that were essential for its early growth just don’t apply any more.

Think of Twitter as a command-line interface for communications. You have obscure commands like @, ., d, #. It’s extremely unfriendly to users. DM fails happen regularly. We had to invent an inefficient layer of URL shortening services to deal with Twitter limitations. It relies on handles, which is a geeky thing.

For content publishers, tracking activity on Twitter is a challenge to say the least. When people reply to conversations, it’s much harder than it should be to track what they were responding to.

Google+ is a GUI for communications. But so is Facebook.

Despite its clunkinesss, Twitter has built an extremely loyal following of publishers. If you have 1 million, 100,000 or even 1,000 followers on Twitter, it’s going to be extremely hard to get all of them over on to Google+. Unless Google+ entirely replaces Twitter or Facebook, it’s just another place to check and to manage. If there were unique functionality, it might be worth incurring the overhead. But the new functionality is marginal at best.

With a Twitter acquisition, Google could transfer those relationships onto a more user-friendly platform. Google benefits from having a huge firehose of information and relationships.

Twitter also benefits in that it gets a partner with deep algorithmic and search experience. Twitter has also fallen asleep at the wheel when it comes to local — something I don’t understand at all, given its strong assets. Google is one of the leaders in local. Local could be Google’s backdoor into social, given that a lot of social interaction happens in places.

Someone asked me what price Google should pay. My answer: whatever it takes.

Google has had many failed attempts at social. Without Twitter, Google+ isn’t likely to work either. And Google can’t afford to keep failing at social.

See my answer to “Is Google overreacting to the the rise of Facebook?” on Quora for the reasons why.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
This entry was posted in facebook, google, twitter. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Google should just buy Twitter already. At any price.

  1. On Facebook, didn’t they change the group function a couple months ago to act much like Google+ circles? You can create a group of people called “College Buddies” and add people to it, then you can post status updates and send messages to just that group…right? I haven’t used it, but I think the functionality is there for people who want it.

  2. Yeah, Facebook has a couple of variants of the Circles functionality. Virtually no one uses it. (I do to some extent, but I got tired of managing the lists.) People don’t like to do a lot of administrative work for possible future payoff.

  3. Shreyas says:

    Spot on. Facebook, being based on mutual relationships unlike both G+ and Twitter will continue serving a niche social market no matter what Plus does. Google buying Twitter is a win-win. It’s a wonder as to how twitter has been able to scale so much despite its poor tools for connectivity.

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