Does Twitter Need Google?

Was Twitter CEO Evan Williams talking through the details of a deal with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) with his board yesterday?

"Board meeting," Williams tweeted early yesterday morning. Then, last night, he added an update. "Hell of a day. Non-stop meetings. Making things better, bigger. Everyone's working hard. Good stuff. Thanks for your patience. G'night."

Man, am I glad to hear that. Twitter hasn't exactly been itself lately. Take Williams' tweetstream. He's still missing more than 4,000 updates as of this writing. They're just gone, as if they never existed.

And Williams isn't the only one experiencing problems. I've seen Twitter's infamous Fail Whale more in the last few days than I had in the last three months.

On Monday, a cartoonish rendition of an ice cream cone speaking to an inchworm supplanted The Mighty Whale. "Twitter is currently down for unscheduled maintenance," read the message. Mr. Ice Cream Cone's disarming reply: "It's cool, I can chill ... Hurry up."

Clever captions only go so far, of course. Frequent outages are a massive business problem for Twitter, as they once were for Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL, and salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) . Beating the bandwidth burden may mean accepting a deal from an infrastructure-rich suitor. A suitor like, say, Google.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , with massive server networks of their own, would also qualify. But Google would be the better partner, because of how it has already cracked a portion of the Twitter code. Pages of hashtagged Twitter search results -- results that begin with a # sign -- have begun to appear on Google.

There's also the well-worn idea that Google would be the best partner to place ads on Twitter pages and in tweetstreams. Perhaps, but you'll forgive me if I'm hoping for something more. To me, Twitter is a billion-dollar conversational intelligence business in the making. A social search engine on steroids. An adjunct to Google, rather than a part of it.

Trouble is, you only get conversational intelligence when conversations happen. Fix your network, Twitter, before you're forced to find someone else to fix it for you.

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Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. salesforce.com and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Amazon.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Google and a stock position in IBM at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy tweets like a bird but stings like a bee.


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