What? Is Battelle crazy? Hear me out. Think back when YouTube was growing like a weed, and Google snapped it up. Most folks (including me) saw this as Google “getting into the video business,” and sure, that in fact was one part of the equation. But as we all know, making money from consumer driven video ain’t a cakewalk, and hosting that video is really, really expensive. So why did Google really buy YouTube? My answer, which of course looks brilliant given it’s 20/20 hindsight: YouTube was a massive search asset.
Afterall, YouTube now gets more searches than Yahoo, Google’s closest search rival.
So think about that. YouTube was the single fastest growing new form of search on the Web, and Google pretty much outflanked (and outspent) everyone to buy it. Not to get into video monetization, per se, but to harvest and control the most important emerging form of search. In short, Google could not afford to NOT own YouTube.
So, fast forward to today. What’s the most important and quickly growing form of search on the web today? Real time, conversational search. And who’s the YouTube of real time search? Yep. Twitter. It’s an asset Google cannot afford to not own, and also, one they most likely do not have the ability (or brand permission) to build on their own. (Remember, Google tried to build its own YouTube – Google Video – and it failed to get traction. A service like Twitter is community driven, and Google has never been really great at that part of the media business).
That means Google most likely really, really wants to buy Twitter. (So does Facebook, but we’ll get to that in a second). The great twist: Evan and Biz, two of the key co founders of Twitter, have already sold a company to Google (Blogger) and most likely are not keen to do it again. Nor do they have to, given their recent funding and the money they made from pre-IPO Google options.
Add in the fact that Twitter has already said no to a $500mm offer from Facebook, and the fact that Facebook has responded quickly with by opening up its Live Feed status API, and we’ve got a very interesting year ahead of us in the Internet biz. I’ll be watching closely.
(PS – Much speculation lately that Twitter is a threat to Google, see this Merc piece. I’ll respond more to that idea later).
Update: Plenty of folks letting me know of pieces that are related, will post them as the come in. So far:
http://laserlike.com/2008/11/14/why-google-or-yahoo-should-buy-twitter/ from Mike
and http://www.jamesgross.com/facebook-will-be-open/ from James