An unsubstantiated assertion I’ve seen repeatedly over the last months is that Google needs to acquire Twitter because Twitter knows what is happening (or what we’re thinking about) now, while Google can only look backwards. The latest version I’ve seen of this argument is from Jeff Jarvis’s post today, entitled “Why Google should want Twitter: Currency“:
Google isn’t good at currency. It needs content to ferment; it needs links and clicks to collect so PageRank can determine its value.
I grant that PageRank isn’t good at currency. But Google doesn’t need to perform link analysis to know what people are thinking about in real time. Google can simply look at its logs to determine what people are searching for–and, in particular, which search terms and phrases are appearing with statistically significant frequency. And Google’s search volume is much higher (and more representative of the online population) than Twitter’s update and search traffic combined.
To be clear, you and I can’t perform that analysis using the tools Google makes available to the general public. But Google can–and I don’t see any reason, other than the fear of raising public concerns about privacy, that Google can’t exploit this data themselves.
What is different about Twitter is that it *does* make the data available to the general public. Twitter exposes Trends as part of its own offering, but it also enables services like Tweetmeme to perform their own analyses to track the hot stories in near-real time. But Google could do something similar and probably better if it wanted to.
I’ve said this before: Twitter is a community (a social network if you prefer), not a search engine. And, if there’s a good reason for Google to entertain acquiring Twitter, it’s probably that Google has a less than stellar track record when it comes to community. But let’s not delude ourselves to think that Google needs Twitter to know what’s on our minds now. They already know.