While Google doesn't need to boost its audience, the acquisition might keep Twitter out of the hands of competitors, namely Yahoo and Microsoft, he said. "I think an acquisition would make sense, and if they can get it for less than $1 billion, the better it is," Weide said.
Others believe Twitter should actively entertain the option of getting acquired by Google and strike while the iron is hot.
"Other tie-ins short of an acquisition could make sense, but would be harder to sustain since Twitter already uses such open interfaces. It will be hard to do something that others can't replicate. Now is the time for Twitter to sell. It is at the top of its hype range now. Monetizing on its own would be a long, hard slog," wrote Gartner research vice president Jeff Mann in a note e-mailed to reporters.
The rumors erupted late Thursday when tech blog TechCrunch reported the companies were engaged in "late stage negotiations" for an acquisition, citing two anonymous sources. TechCrunch later tempered that report, saying a third source characterized the discussions as "early stage" and possibly revolving around a search engine collaboration. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital tech blog, also quoting anonymous sources, said no acquisition discussions were on the table, but rather talks about collaboration on real-time search and better crawling of Twitter's content.
It would be interesting to see what emerges from a collaboration between the companies to fine-tune Twitter's usefulness for search engine users, Sterling said.
"Right now, it's problematic using Twitter as an alternative search engine. There's a lot of noisy results you get on Twitter's search," Sterling said. "If you can remove some of the noise, it could be quite powerful."
For example, Twitter could turn into the next evolution of question-and-answer search engines, especially for users tapping into it from mobile devices, Sterling said. "It becomes a word-of-mouth network that is kind of instantaneous," he said.
That would complement all the different ways in which Twitter is already very useful, like for marketing, Sterling said.
There would be technical challenges in making Twitter into a more useful search engine, and it would involve Google coming up with a way to weigh the reliability and authority of different Twitter users, Weiner said.
While Google declined to comment, Twitter's co-founder Biz Stone posted a note on the company's official blog saying the company's plans are to remain independent.
"It should come as no surprise that Twitter engages in discussions with other companies regularly and on a variety of subjects," he wrote. "Our goal is to build a profitable, independent company and we're just getting started."
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