Twitter acquisition rumors are hot this morning, following a CNBC report that the microblogging social network might receive a formal purchase offer soon. Potential buyers include Salesforce (a cloud-computing company), Verizon (the telecommunications giant), Microsoft, and Google (you’ve heard of them), according to a variety of reports; the bid could reportedly come as early as “shortly.” (Sure. Okay.)
A buyer coming forward wouldn’t be terribly surprising news, given Twitter’s struggles (slowing user growth, falling stock value, being a feeding ground for vicious online abuse) to maintain its place among the social- media giants it’s competing with. Of course, Twitter isn’t in quite the dire straits that some press have suggested, but its investors and shareholders would be eager for a sale.
The real question is: Who? It’s become something of a fun guessing game in certain tech and media spheres over the past several months. Nick Bilton at Vanity Fair (about the best-sourced Twitter reporter out there) suggests Facebook or Google; Kara Swisher and Kurt Wagner, at Recode, hashed the question out in a debate, determining that a private-equity firm would be the best buyer, but Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or a Chinese tech company would be more realistic.
Google makes sense: It’s been trying to crack social networks for years, and buying Twitter would give them a large one outright — and one particularly well-suited to Google’s strengths. (One direction for Twitter at Google would be to turn Twitter accounts into the universal online identities they always almost have been.) And, on the Twitter side, Google has the kind of resources and expertise to help it succeed with its video and advertising ambitions.
Microsoft also would give Twitter resources and expertise. But it just bought a social network — LinkedIn — that’s tied much more closely to Microsoft’s focus on enterprise businesses. Verizon, similarly, would love to have the user data (and free content!) of Twitter, but having just bought Yahoo, it may not have an appetite for taking on another troubled company. Salesforce, finally, is the weirdest (and, if we’re being honest, funniest) potential bidder, largely because it’s hard to figure out what they’d do with it. (Leave it alone? Refashion it from a social network to an enterprise marketing platform?) Why shouldn’t Twitter just be for marketers and their clients? We might be about to find out.