It’s a terrible cliché to say ‘if Shakespeare were alive today he would do x’ but let’s do it anyway. If Shakespeare were alive today he might have made something of the Twitter story. Wealth, ambition, infighting, fatal indecision and bad decisions, overreaching, tragic weaknesses… it’s a narrative that would suit some modern equivalent of the Swan of Avon so long as he didn’t confine himself to the 140 character ceiling: Shakespeare’s heroes are just warming up for a soliloquy at that point. And iambic pentameter is tough enough without making things even harder.
Like many tragedies, it appears to be developing in slow motion. A Twitter sale has been mooted for years, almost ever since the Californian company found fame. Recent weeks have seen possible bidders like Disney and Google exit stage left, pursued by a bearish decline in Twitter’s stock.
As I have suggested elsewhere while predicting a Twitter sale this year, the company could use a fresh perspective if it is to avoid being the modern Java – full of value, shy on profits. Twitter remains a wonderful source of news and unfiltered opinion but it badly needs an owner with complementary properties, a strong sense of direction and a history in mining cash from social interactions.
Salesforce reportedly remains interested but it’s not clear why, given that it already has a Twitter-like communications tool in Chatter and can already mine Twitter and other social graphs without owning the company. It also has no track record in consumer services. Microsoft would be a better fit but appears to be passing on the opportunity, perhaps preferring to fully digest LinkedIn. So Twitter battles on and casts about like Prince Hamlet. It’s to be hoped that it has a happier ending.
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Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond