Google Threatened by Twitter?

Filed as Features on February 26, 2009 4:02 am

TwitterThere’s some buzz on how Google might feel threatened by Twitter, because of the microblogging service’s search functionality. John Battelle makes the argument, putting Twitter in the same sentence as YouTube and points out that the latter has more search queries than Yahoo.

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).

True. However, I’m wondering how well the reasoning fares here. Google did buy Jaiku, just to let it go after doing more or less nothing to it, other than crippling the development and effectually destroying the, in some ways superior, service’s chances to compete with Twitter. So why didn’t they give Jaiku a serious shot then?

Maybe Google just didn’t get it back then, although I find that highly unlikely. Search is the key product for Google, and since they tend to know what they’re doing, I’m guessing the first business model and additional feature they try on everything, is search. It makes sense, because search means keywords which means ads.

We never saw that on Jaiku.

Then again, I do believe that Twitter’s realtime search is something Google is mulling over. It is very right now, and if search can be right now, then so can ads. In fact, Google’s ads are constantly right now, although they could probably be so in a more local and focused sense. Let’s say you search, on a microblogging service, for sushi. Then Google could deliver ads for sushi places close to you that are actually open. Take it one step further and the sushi place will take your order via Twitter. Or whatever, that’s just on the top of my head, I bet Google – and Twitter for that matter – has a ton of other, far greater ideas in store for these things.

Chris O’Brien argues that the mere fact that we’re discussing this is a testament to “just how quickly the sands can shift under the feet of even a colossus like Google”. Certainly, however I do think that tech journalists and bloggers are pretty good at making things look bigger and more serious than they are as well.

There’s always the chance, of course, that Google will quickly deploy real-time search and simply crush Twitter. But that’s harder than it sounds. Twitter already has an estimated 6 million users and is growing rapidly. It would be hard to convince someone to switch to a new microblogging service at this point, and it might be just as tough to get users to search Twitter through Google when they can just do it through Twitter itself.

There’ll be no crushing. Twitter can still have great search, and why google it when you’re on Twitter and want to search Twitter? The userbase won’t disappear just because Google can search in real time, it’ll just expand since people will find Twitter on Google to a much greater extent. That would be worse news for Twingly though, who’s got microblog search, but that’s a completely different matter.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Google buys Twitter. It is a matter of money for Ev and Biz after all, although I doubt they’re really that keen to sell this one without giving it a serious go first, and by that I mean actually try to make money on it. And they did turn down Facebook’s $500 million or whatever it was.

I don’t think Google feels threatened by Twitter. I do, however, believe that they are mulling over how to make money on microblog search, and the solution they come up with could very well end up on Twitter as a partnership.

What do you think? Should Google fear Twitter and Twitter’s search functionality, just because it’s real time? Naturally, Twitter can’t beat Google in traditional search, because if you really want to find something out you need search results from content longer than 140 characters. However, perhaps it could give the search giant a run for its money when it comes to research, especially for journalists and bloggers looking for stories? That’s worth a thought.

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  1. By Amrit Hallan posted on February 26, 2009 at 9:10 am
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    I don’t think Google needs to feel threatened with Twitter because fundamentally they are two different services. People use Google to find information and people use Twitter to interact and communicate. Of course there will be a problem for Twitter users if Google buys this service and then destroys it like Jaiku. But then Google did by YouTube and it is still a thriving community despite the fact that many people say Google doesn’t earn much from it.

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  2. By Mark Lewis posted on February 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm
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    I had been thinking just this last week how little I had been using Google.
    I find everything through Twitter now. Things I would never even think to search for on Google. Twitter and my RSS feeds have dramatically reduced my dependency on Google. And it is more fun!
    I personally think the Big G has something to worry about. A Google search gives me 10 sites that their algo thinks I should see.
    Twitter gives me everything else.
    -Mark

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  3. By Darnell Clayton posted on February 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm
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    I am not sure if either Ev or Biz Stone would be thrilled to work for Google again.

    After all, they did create Blogger, watched it grow, left and saw most of their team migrate with them to Twitter.

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  4. By Sohail Ahmed posted on February 28, 2009 at 12:13 am
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    Its very difficult to beat Google in search engine business. Ev and Biz should sell Twitter to Google and start making another rocking product like they are used to.

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  5. By Alchemy posted on March 6, 2009 at 4:54 pm
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    I don’t know about this anyways. Twitter still has a long ways to go, and is hardly the service that everyone raves over – I can easily see how it could be pushed aside by google or another entity.

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  6. By Vinod Kumar posted on March 13, 2009 at 8:09 am
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    I think Twitter can not create competition from google because , Google is Rock

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