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There's a lot of money accumulating in Techlandia. The cash-rich companies are also starting to get itchy. With short-term income instruments yielding a pittance, it won't be long before they begin deploying some of that greenery into strategic acquisitions.
At the top of the list of privately held acquisition targets, you will probably find Facebook and Twitter. These are the two companies that everyone seems to be talking about these days, but which one is the better buy? Which company offers the brighter future and most bang for the buyout buck?
It has to be Facebook! My friend Tim Beyers disagrees, but what does he know? He's a Twitter fiend.
Face to face with Facebook
Tim and I know both sites well. We follow each other on Twitter. We're friends on Facebook. I just can't see how he feels that Twitter is a business.
For starters, Facebook is already a business. It supposedly cleared $280 million in revenue last year, and that is projected to grow by 70% this year. Twitter? Well, it's too busy trying to generate traffic to worry about actual monetization.
It will definitely happen for Twitter. However, it won't be without its risks. The moment it begins to launch premium accounts, a caste system will be born. Once it begins populating its site with ads -- like, for example, spitting an ad out for every tenth "tweet" -- it will open the door for ad-free rivals that promise to be less intrusive. We don't know how the Twitterati will react, because the company hasn't taken that step.
Facebook, thankfully, has already proven that it can thrive with a deluge of marketing opportunities. It landed a juicy advertising deal with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) two years ago, while Twitter was still in the crib.
Unlike Twitter -- which is essentially a one-trick pony -- Facebook is a malleable social experience. It's no wonder that it surpassed 200 million registered users last month. It wasn't the first social network. Sites like Friendster planted the flag. It's not even the first site with campus-driven roots. United Online's (Nasdaq: UNTD ) Classmates.com was all over that, but fumbled the ball by positioning itself as a premium reunion site instead of the open platform for the masses that Facebook has become.
Facebook isn't just disruptive to rival social-networking sites.
- It is attracting 850 million photo uploads a day, clearly eating into older photo-sharing sites like Shutterfly (Nasdaq: SFLY ) .
- It rolled out an app platform for developers, a year before Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) opened its App Store, and now VentureBeat is reporting that a payment platform for developers is in the works.
The scary thing is that as big as Facebook has become in a few years, this is really only the beginning.
Twitter rhymes with quitter
I can spend hours on Facebook. I can spend minutes -- or even a minute -- on Twitter.
I joined Twitter 26 months ago, early enough to lock up a choice investing-related name: @market. Unfortunately, I just haven't caught the bug the way that my bud @milehighfool has. I have posted just 21 updates in that time, so I guess I'm averaging a little less than one a month. Maybe if I'm inspired, a link to this article will be my 22nd tweet.
Is it worth it? I have to go to a third-party URL-squeezing site like bit.ly or tinyurl.com to shorten the link. I have to keep my post under 140 characters. I have to put up with scrolling past the crossfire of replies where I'm only getting half the story.
Two months ago, I was at the final weekend of a Circuit City liquidation sale. The pickings were slim, but there were a ton of Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) receivers that weren't selling -- even at just $7 apiece. I took a snapshot, and figured it would make a good Twitter entry. Well, it was even more of a hassle, since I had to go to Twitpic and upload it there, then deal with the copy shackles once again.
Blech! Twitter is like spinach. I'll eat it because it's good for me, but it doesn't mean that I have to like it.
Facebook is the one you want
It wouldn't surprise me to see both Facebook and Twitter either go public this year or be acquired at a healthy price. I'm not Twitter's biggest fan, but I definitely see its utility as both a promotional platform and a way to take cyberspace's pulse.
However, I like my sites the way I like my cinnamon rolls: sticky, warm, and worth rolling out.
Facebook fits the bill. It's the perfect catchall site. It is magnetically viral enough to become the most popular website in a few years. It is open-ended enough to carve out its own future. In a single snap, it can become a search engine like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , take the form of eBay's (Nasdaq: EBAY ) entire bag of verbs, or become the content distributor that wipes the slate clean for major labels and perhaps even newspaper companies.
My final point -- before we both return on Monday with our rebuttals -- is that unless Tim can limit his bullish argument on Twitter to a mere 140 characters, I win.
Some cool widgets for your Facebook profile: