Talking tech since 2003

Launched in 2006, Twitter has quickly become an extremely popular and frequently used micro-blogging website known for allowing users to interact with one-another via short status updates and messages.  While the social networking site originally started off exclusively as a web-based services, the updated version of that website has been the cause of a certain degree of criticism because of its bloated layout.  In order to overcome the shortcomings in the web interface, many users in recent years have opted to take advantage of third-party Twitter clients that connect to Twitter’s open API.  Not only do these clients provide simple access to Twitter outside of the web browser, but many of them offer various features that help them to stand out from each other and the website itself.

One of the more popular third-party Twitter clients out there today is the Adobe Air based “TweetDeck.”  Twitter users – including those who deem themselves “power users” – flock to TweetDeck because of its powerful features such as search columns and lists which ultimately allow Twitter users to better navigate the social network straight from their desktop.  And with compatibility for PC, Mac, and Linux operating systems as well as the iOS and Android mobile platforms it’s needless to say that TweetDeck has gained quite a bit of traction with Twitter end-users.  Now the Wall Street Journal is coming forth with news that Twitter is in the midst of acquiring TweetDeck for a sum of $50 million.

Off the bat, one would think that Twitter was acquiring TweetDeck with the intention of expanding their array of self-developed Twitter clients; an aspect that the company has become more and more invested in the last year or so.  And admittedly, I myself can even see where this logic would make sense.  Twitter has, after all, released applications for both the Android and BlackBerry platforms in the last year, and even went as far as to acquire software development company Atebits in order to rebrand their famed “Tweetie” application into their new “Twitter for iPhone” product.  So far this year we’ve even seen Twitter’s release of an official Mac application, available for free through the Mac OS X App Store.

But even though a potential acquisition of TweetDeck by Twitter makes sense at face value, looking into the issue more in-depth reveals that the acquisition would do little to no good for Twitter.  Looking at Twitter’s past year of acquisitions and developmental efforts, Twitter would be essentially throwing away all of their previous client efforts by taking on TweetDeck now.  You see, one of TweetDeck’s greatest features is that it works on every modern computing platform out there.  So sure, this would have been a great acquisition for Twitter a year and a half ago, but purchasing TweetDeck now would only put Twitter in an awkward situation.  What would they do with their current applications once they got their hands on the multi-platform TweetDeck?  I highly doubt they would toss them aside to make room, and I just cannot fathom Twitter having and maintaining multiple applications for various operating systems.

So really, what would the company really stand to gain after dropping a whopping $50 million on TweetDeck?

Personally, I think Twitter is looking at purchasing TweetDeck purely out of damage control.  New features such as (a service that allows users to share longer status updates) and the up and coming Chrome add-on that TweetDeck is now pushing honestly put Twitter to shame.  And while these speak volumes for TweetDeck’s success, the fact that Twitter hasn’t been able to keep up and the fact that a third-party web-based service was going to compete with Twitter’s own web portal was simply flat-out pathetic.

For a company like Twitter, losing control over their end-users and how they interact with the service is a huge risk, and if not handled correctly would potentially lead to the network’s downfall down the road.  With this in mind, Twitter’s purchase would make a great deal of sense in order to ensure long-term viability and strength.

So what do I think will happen once TweetDeck falls into Twitter’s hands?  Personally, my guess (which is as good as any) is that Twitter will slow down TweetDeck’s development or halt it altogether.  This would allow them to better promote their own desktop and mobile clients, and would allow the company to slowly regain control.  At the same time though, I find it hard to wrap my mind around the concept of Twitter spending $50 million just to kill off a product.  Sure, the “if you can’t beat them buy them” mentality makes quite a bit of sense, but the “if you can’t beat them kill them” mentality really is taking things a bit too far.

So what do you think?  What will Twitter do with TweetDeck?  Leave your feedback in the comments!

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