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My friend Rick Munarriz's urgings notwithstanding, I can't think of a single reason for microblogger Twitter, a billion-dollar business in the making, to sell itself to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) right now.
Nor can Twitter's founders. "We want to go for it and make a successful business out of this," co-founder Biz Stone told BusinessWeek recently.
Not that there haven't been buyout talks. There have been. BusinessWeek confirmed as much in an interview with Stone and CEO Evan Williams. There could be more; an advertising tie-up with Google is too obvious to ignore. History also favors a TwitGoo tango: Williams sold Blogger to Google in 2003.
Yet Twitter is much more than buyout bait.
It's a shopping mall! No, a news wire!
Former Macintosh evangelist Guy Kawasaki depends on it. So much so, that he'd rather go a week without a mobile phone than forego his Twitter feed for a similar length of time. Why? Because without it, traffic to Alltop.com, an online magazine rack that he co-created, would drop by 20%. That's powerful testimony.
Equally awe-inspiring are tales of Twitter's ability to break news. Eyewitnesses tweeted horrific details of last year's attacks in Mumbai, India. Twitter also played a role in reporting the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson," in which the pilots and crew of US Airways flight 1549 safely landed in the water when a birdstrike brought down the jetliner shortly after takeoff.
Entrepreneur Janis Krums chronicled the event by snapping a photo with his iPhone. Fame and interviews followed, as writer Shel Israel tells it in his forthcoming book, Twitterville.
Twitter, Israel says, has forever changed the business of reporting the news. "Twitter has made everyone a citizen journalist," he told me in a recent interview. He's right. Investors know it, too: Shares of old-media giant New York Times (NYSE: NYT ) have lost more than 75% in the past year, and Gannett (NYSE: GCI ) is down more than 90%.
Nationally, newspapers are dying, including my hometown's The Rocky Mountain News. Twitter is helping to fill the void. Or at least, it's helping those creating technology to fill the void. Outside.in is an interesting, if creepy, example. The company uses a series of algorithms to map tweets and blog posts by location, automating the process of hyperlocal newsgathering.
No, a conversation aggregator!
And these are just two opportunities for Twitter. Selling access would be an even better idea. Twitter, like no other service before it, has the capacity to aggregate conversations.
Conversational intelligence would be worth plenty to anyone interested in microtargeting. Amazon and Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) are obvious choices, sure, but any consumer service would qualify. Imagine Twitter as the recommendations engine for Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI ) . Not only would it make for a more engaging experience -- listen to what you and your friends are talking about -- but it would also be a thumb to the eye of would-be rival Pandora.
Writer Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch calls Twitter a collection of thought streams. I say it's better than that; it's the world's greatest focus group, a conversational zeitgeist that's many times more valuable than what Facebook captures because the mosaic is created in real-time.
Which brings me back to Google. The Big G, too, has a finger on the zeitgeist, thanks to its search engine. What it lacks is real-time data. Twitter would change that, and consequently improve its ad targeting.
But that's so ... boring.
I'm a rebel investor. As a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers team, I follow rebellious businesses and business models. Twitter is a rebel; it can change almost any industry it wants to change. All Williams, Stone, and fellow co-founder Jack Dorsey need is the time to figure out which one.
Leave them alone, Google. We'll all be better off if you do.