Disney could acquire Twitter

Bloomberg via Gruber:

The Walt Disney Co. is working with a financial adviser to evaluate a possible bid for Twitter Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. After receiving interest in discussing a deal, Twitter has started a process to evaluate a potential sale. Salesforce.com Inc. is also considering a bid, working with Bank of America on the process, according to other people, who declined to be named because the matter is private.

That makes me a lot more confident in Twitter’s future than a Google bid. Also, a touch of told ya so.

Twitter may soon be acquired by Salesforce or Google


David Faber and Anita Balakrishnan, reporting for CNBC:

Twitter shares surged Friday after sources said the ailing social media company moved closer to being sold.

The sources said the company has received expressions of interest from several technology or media companies and may receive a formal bid shortly. The potential suitors include Google and Salesforce.com, among other technology companies, sources said.

If this happens, I sure hope it’s Salesforce that buys them, not Google. The news was taken seriously enough that Twitter’s share price closed up 21 percent for the day.

I would much prefer it was a communications, media company, or publishing company, like AT&T, MSNBC, or Advance Publications. For Google, Twitter is a stream to fit ads into; for Salesforce, perhaps a research tool? (Still not entirely sure the Salesforce bid makes any sense.) I’d be much more inclined to use Twitter if it became a communication product, news distribution tool, or a content generation platform, not another advertisement (and therefore surveillance) platform. Ideally: a public utility for free speech funded by the people.

Twitter, ISIS, and free speech

The New York Times:

Twitter suspended 235,000 accounts that promoted terrorism over the last six months, as part of a continuing effort to keep people from using the social network for extremist causes, the company said Thursday.

This is completely okay despite being an affront to free speech because Twitter does not owe you (or ISIS) anything. Twitter’s interests are with their advertisers, and when the any speech goes against their motivations, it is completely up to Twitter to deal with it the way they want (and they will). It gives everyone at least one compelling reason not to centralize their speech and surrender their freedom, especially when hosting text is so cheap.

Twitter rolling out quality filters


Last year we began testing a quality filter setting and we’re now rolling out a feature for everyone. When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience.

It seems to me that every Twitter user is really demanding on the free service, expecting it uphold principles of free speech and filter hate speech from their feeds and not get any money for doing it. Twitter is iconic, every commercial and celebrity is constantly peddling hashtags, and yet there’s no clear way forward for Twitter to profit on that.

Twitter launches Engage

Anecdotally, I think Twitter may be the highest-profile company which makes zero dollars. Its logo sits right next to Facebook on nearly every piece of marketing, and yet Twitter is nowhere near its competitors with regards to profit margin. Today, they announced a new app, which John Vorhees describes for MacStories:

[…] Twitter is different things to different people. For some it’s a public forum for chatting with friends. For others, Twitter is a broadcast medium. For still others, Twitter is all about marketing. Engage is designed to help you maximize the reach of your tweets through analytics. If that’s not your thing, you may view the app as useless, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed out of hand.

It’s an excellent service and this app shows the tremendous engineering and product brainpower they have at Twitter. Ideologically, I dislike where this is going: I wish companies would devise business models which didn’t rely on surveillance. The terms “public forum” and “broadcast medium” make me think Twitter should be owned by the people, kept completely neutral, devoid of surveillance, and run at a loss paid for by a taxes. I don’t see a way forward for this approach however, and I don’t have any hope for Twitter convincing people to pay for the service, however much it ended up being to be sustainable (per Tweet? per Kb?).

Edit: Here’s John Gruber’s take:

Even with a verified account and a fair number of followers, I find this app almost totally useless. Anything you want to actually do, like respond to a tweet, it shoots you over to the official Twitter app. I fear for Twitter — they’re just spinning their wheels.

Exactly. I worry for Twitter. I wonder if this is a play at becoming indispensable to “influencers” in hope for charging them in the future. I struggle to see how this will make them money, even if it seems “kinda cool.” If Gruber’s take is shared amongst high-profile bloggers, this app may go the way of #Music.

Twitter is in fact changing the timeline

Twitter is changing their timeline to be algorithmic instead of chronological, rather like Facebook did some time ago.  Matthew Lynley reporting for TechCrunch:

Twitter today is unveiling a new Twitter timeline that shows tweets at the top that the service recommends, instead of the most recent tweets. They’re designed to be the best tweets that users may have missed based on what Twitter thinks you care about. […]

All this comes on the heels of a massive backlash against the move, which was first reported by BuzzFeed, in the trending topic aptly named #RIPTwitter.

If you don’t like changes a service you do not pay for makes, you don’t have any recourse other than leaving. I encourage you to do so.

The Future of Twitter

John Gruber:

I do think Twitter has become far too complicated. The original appeal of Twitter was largely based on its simplicity. But I have argued for years that the fundamental problem is that Twitter is compared to Facebook, and it shouldn’t be. Facebook appeals to billions of people. “Most people”, it’s fair to say. Twitter appeals to hundreds of millions of people. That’s amazing, and there’s tremendous value in that — but it’s no Facebook. Cramming extra features into Twitter will never make it as popular as Facebook — it will only dilute what it is that makes Twitter as popular and useful as it is.

Walt Mossberg:

To potential new users, it’s a real challenge to learn all of Twitter’s often arcane little features. And even for people who have been using the service multiple times daily for years, like me, it can be tricky to decide when to use which feature and in which situation. For instance, new users might be confused about what a retweet is, or the difference between that and a “quote tweet” (where you say more about something you’re reposting). And they surely might not understand the need to place a period before the handle of a user, when that handle is at the very start of a tweet you compose, yet not elsewhere in the tweet.

Ben Thompson:

When it comes to “the empty spaces” most people don’t want to do work, but work is exactly what Twitter required. You had to know what you were interested in, know who to follow based on those interests, and then, to top it all off, you had to pick out the parts that you were interested in from a stream of unfiltered tweets; Facebook, in contrast, did the work for you.

There is an underlying tension in the recent dialogue surrounding Twitter: it’s too complicated for “most people” to use, but it’s simplicity is what makes it appeal to its “niche”, these writers would seem to have us believe.

I think Twitter’s problem is entirely different: when it first began, like Facebook before it and MySpace before it, it was hip. The corporations didn’t know about it, Wall Street didn’t care about it, there were no ads, there were just weird Internet people, doing weird Internet stuff.

Now every news outlet, government body, and multinational are on there tweeting around the clock and feeding you ads. By selling the product to Wall Street and the advertisers, which is exactly what I would have done if I ran Twitter, Twitter alienated at least me. Contrast this with Tumblr, which sold to Yahoo and is unlikely to be profitable, but still somehow manages to retain it’s hip tone.

I think Twitter shouldn’t aim to be profitable. I recognize it isn’t at all practical or at all useful advice to Jack Dorsey, but the reason I don’t think Twitter should be profitable is that’s it’s a public resource – like plumbing, the Internet, and roads – it’s the common discourse. Ideally the U.S. Government would foot the bill and protect it under First Amendment rights. Of course, in reality this would never happen, and if it did it’d likely lead to outrageous privacy abuses.