Real-time is the future of everything, someone wrote three seconds ago. And therefore, Google will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to buy Twitter! Welcome to the way acquisitions are done in Silicon Valley.
Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is reporting that Google and Twitter are in some stage of acquisition talks — either early or late, depending on who you ask — for a sum well above the $230 million price venture capitalists placed on Twitter when they invested in February.
It would be a second Google payday for Twitter CEO Ev Williams, who sold Blogger to Google in 2003, a deal which proved lucrative after Google went public a year later. And he has the benefit of having negotiated a sale to Google before.
Williams's Twitter, which lets users post short updates about whatever thought crosses their minds, is being hailed by the Valley's groupthinking bloggers as a revolution in "real-time search." Much as a stopped clock is right twice a day, occasionally one finds some bit of timely news posted by a Twitter user. (It's hardly a threat to established newsgathering operations, because more often than not, what's posted on Twitter is just a link to some page on CNN.com or nytimes.com.)
The venture capitalists who sank tens of millions of dollars into Twitter, despite its lack of any sincere interest in making money, have cleverly talked up this "real-time" angle among journalists eager for a trend story. The notion of real-time anything is inherently appealing to the Ritalin addicts of the tech and media worlds, for whom instant gratification both takes too long and wastes 15 percent of a 140-character message. And that has gotten Google worried that it might be letting a rival grow in its own backyard.
Already, the buzz has translated into investments and hires for Twitter. It recently poached Google's top designer, Doug Bowman, and hired a computer scientist, Pankaj Gupta, whom Google and Facebook were wooing. Even though Google has laid off hundreds recently, it's still hiring engineers. One more reason to buy Twitter that boils down to pure shame: to plug an embarrassing brain drain.
And one last reason: To spare Twitter's executives the chore of talking about their nonbusiness. On Thursday's Colbert Report, cofounder Biz Stone had to go through a humiliating explanation of how Twitter is building "value" instead of "profit":
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