Who’s going to buy Twitter?

The latest social networking phenomenon could have a new owner later this year. But who wants to buy themselves a piece of Twitter? We weigh up the contenders.

Back in 2006, all eyes were on MySpace. This was the social networking phenomenon that you had to be a part of, else you'd face being virtually ostracised by people you only half knew, but who claimed to be your friends.

Then, just as you managed to haul your virtual backside into the land of MySpace - ultimately owned by Mr Rupert Murdoch - everyone seemed to debunk and head over to Facebook. It had better applications. It had more things to do. It had friends that might actually talk to you if you met them face to face. Thus, by December 2008, Facebook was getting twice as many monthly unique users as MySpace, and active acquaintances on the latter were in decreasing supply (unless you live in America, that is, where it maintains its lead and most active userbase).

The modern social networking phenomenon, however, isn't either of these services. Instead, it's something quicker and far more to the point. It's Twitter.

What's Twitter?

Twitter is, for the uninitiated, essentially a microblogging site, where you post updates of up to 140 characters. Those characters are generally used to update others on what you're doing, or to reply to other tweets'. Updates can come via the web, through third party applications or through mobile phones and such like.

While you may instantly dismiss all of this as just more social networking nonsense clogging up the web, it might be worth stopping to consider the numbers. As we reported earlier this year, Twitter is soaring. Its traffic in the UK alone has risen by nearly 1000 per cent in just one calendar year, and more and more publications and organisations are using the service to keep people updated as to what they're doing. Even IT PRO has jumped on the bandwagon.

With such a surge of interest inevitably comes talk of acquisition and merger, not least because Twitter is swimming against the negative economic tide right now. Not only are its numbers rising, but it's also enjoying an increasing number of high profile users singing its praises. Two of the more notorious in the UK are Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry, and their respective continual plugging of the service is doing it no harm either.

Interest

So who's interested in taking Twitter over? After all, for all its numbers, it falls into the usual social networking trap of hardly having revenues to match its visitor numbers. As it readily admits on its website: "Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now because we don't want to distract ourselves from the more important work at hand". That, to even the least skilled at reading between the lines, suggests it makes very little money at all, and it's relied on venture capital investment to get it this far (along with, of course, the skills and vision of its founders).

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