If you were a little blue bird, with a good pile of money and a whole lot of hype, what would you buy to spice up your nest? There are so many little services being built on top of Twitter that we wouldn't be surprised to see some more of them acquired by the company soon. That would mean more features for everyday users and more usefulness for features loved by loyal early adopters.
Twitter has acquired two other companies so far, that we know of. Search engine and sentiment analysis service Summize became Twitter's own search engine and Values of N sold its assets so engineer Rael Dornfest could be brought into the company. Here are ten other startups we think that Twitter should consider acquiring next. Which kind of company would you most like to see become part of Twitter itself? We've got a poll below.
Is Twitter in a position to make more acquisitions? We suspect so. It has cash but more importantly it has stock. Think of it this way: Google is afraid of Facebook and Facebook is afraid of Twitter. Would startups bend over backwards to become a part of Twitter? We suspect most would.
Some of these we think are likely acquisitions, some less so. In making this list we considered both functionality that would be helpful to have added to Twitter's own site and technology that would be worth buying instead of just building in-house. Whenever a platform company builds technology that a number of other startups offer, there is a risk of scaring other people away from investing in development that the platform could just reproduce. Acquisitions of startups on a platform probably increase the appeal of development though, as it's a chance to get in on the game.
Quite Likely, if It Hasn't Happened Already
Bit.ly is the most full-featured and popular URL shortener on the market right now and was recently selected as Twitter's own shortener of choice, dethroning TinyURL. Bit.ly offers all kinds of smart analytics, from real-time click tracking to semantic analysis of topic keywords from the links that people tweet.
One trusted industry source speaking on the condition of anonymity told us that Bit.ly servers "were moved into Twitter's racks months ago in preparation for this change" [of becoming the default shortener]. Bit.ly is becoming too important to Twitter to keep that functionality outside the company's own shop and the two companies share some investors. We will not be surprised at all if a Bit.ly acquisition by Twitter is announced sometime in the near future.
Tweetmeme is another fast growing Twitter analytics service that tracks sharing on the service. With another chunk of new features just added today, the service is looking a whole lot like "Feedburner for Twitter" but with even more viral distribution possibilities. The Tweetmeme API is quite interesting and could complement Bit.ly quite well.
Twitpic is a popular way to share images on Twitter. The site faces a strong challenge from ImageShack's YFrog, but independent Twitpic would be a cheaper acquisition and is already well known among Twitter users. (Twitter should probably look at Enjoysthin.gs; it's got the best user experience.) An increase in imagery on Twitter would probably offer the company a lot more advertising real-estate.
Tweepz is a fascinating Twitter search engine that acts like a directory that lets you parse your results using various metrics gleaned from Twitter. Check out this search, for example. Twitter could benefit from making this kind of search available to users, advertisers and researchers - and Tweepz has already built it. See also Twazzup, another company doing interesting things with Twitter data.
An iPhone app company could be a good buy for Twitter; there's certainly plenty of options. M.Twitter.com is a good mobile service already but someone specializing in super high-quality Twitter apps for the iPhone, Android and Pre could be good to bring in house. It could be AteBits, makers of Tweetie. There may not be enough reason for Twitter to buy one of these companies, though.
A desktop Twitter app company could help Twitter increase user engagement. Many of the most serious Twitter users (though not all) swear by desktop access. Twitter could acquire the most popular and arguably most innovative desktop app, Tweetdeck, or it could bring Seesmic in house. Tweetdeck would be cheap and shares investors with Twitter. Desktop apps may be too limited in appeal to be a compelling acquisition target.
Geo-location could be a good feature to add to Twitter. Search by user location could be made much more meaningful and the list of things that could be done with it is very long. Brightkite is popular and well developed, Shizzow is pretty and wouldn't be expensive. On the other hand, browsers themselves will likely all become more location aware in the near future and Twitter may be satisfied with its current location data.
A semantics company could bring structure to the Tweets, making them more useful and easier to advertise against. Right now links Tweeted are semantically analyzed by Reuters' Calais and sent to Bit.ly, but we wouldn't be surprised if Twitter was interested in scooping up a small semantics shop and helping it scale so that analysis was being done in house. Twitter may feel like semantics don't need to get that close to consumer users, though. (Disclosure, Calais is a ReadWriteWeb sponsor.)
Topify is a widely loved service that intercepts your new Twitter follower notification emails and sends you much more useful ones. It's great but probably too easy for Twitter to just reproduce itself.
FriendFeed plus Twitter would be a match made in heaven. It would be an engineering powerhouse. It would be a step towards mainstream user adoption of FriendFeed, a service that can't make up its mind which end of the sophistication spectrum it's targeting. It's also quite unlikely to happen. If there's one related startup we can imagine turning down a Twitter acquisition offer, it's probably FriendFeed. (Though the investment-laden and highly ambitious OneRiot is a close second.) Nonetheless, it would be awesome if FriendFeed's cross-network aggregation, threaded conversations, groups, media support, search and more joined forces with Twitter.
Ultimately, it may be most likely that Twitter's next acquisition will be something vapid. A service that aggregates shopping Tweets, or celebrity Tweets,
or something else that will fall short of taking advantage of the Twitter platform's huge potential to change the world. Twitter staff makes relatively simple use of its own service, so hoping that it will acquire companies that make it all the more powerfully sophisticated may be an early adopter's pipe dream. [Update: After some discussion this afternoon, I am thinking it's time to reconsider this position I've held for some time. Twitter staff is not full of dummies, I'm sure, and it has probably been inappropriate of me to write as if that's the case.]
Maybe not, though. We wouldn't be shocked to see Twitter pick up at least a few of the companies above. What do you think? Are there other services you'd like to see become part of the Twitter team even more than the above? It's a wild and woolly micro-content ecosystem out there - anything could happen.
You can find ReadWriteWeb on Twitter, as well as the entire RWW Team: Marshall Kirkpatrick, Bernard Lunn, Alex Iskold, Sarah Perez, Frederic Lardinois, Doug Coleman, Jolie O'Dell, Dana Oshiro , Lidija Davis and Steven Walling.