Why Acquiring TweetDeck Makes Sense for Twitter

The Wall Street Journal today reported on a rumor that Twitter is “in advanced talks to buy TweetDeck,” the popular Twitter client for the desktop and browser. Neither Twitter nor TweetDeck founder Iain Dodsworth have responded to these rumors.

As much as I would prefer to see a healthy ecosystem of Twitter apps, I can’t help but think that it makes sense for Twitter to buy TweetDeck, especially given what we know about Twitter’s priorities these days.

Here is why I think this move makes sense for Twitter: [list]

  • TweetDeck is highly popular with Twitter’s heaviest users. Twitter is working hard on bringing more casual users to its service – even if it’s just for consuming news – but it doesn’t currently have any worthwhile in-house offerings for heavier users. While its mobile clients are quite good, the only desktop client Twitter currently offers is for the Mac and while it’s alright, it lacks quite a few of the features that power users would expect.
  • Rumor has it – and I’d take this with a grain of salt – that UberMedia acquired TweetDeck earlier this year. This rumor was never confirmed. Assuming UberMedia had bought TweetDeck, it would have controlled over 20% of all traffic on Twitter, something Twitter was likely not willing to let happen without a fight. Chances are that if both Twitter and UberMedia are interested in TweetDeck, Twitter will win the bidding war.
  • With the acquisition of Tweetie, Twitter already has some experience in adopting third-party clients to its in-house style.
  • Twitter has already said that it thinks all of these different clients are too confusing for its users. Turning the most popular third-party client into an official one (Twitter Pro?) takes care of this problem.
  • TweetDeck’s browser-based client (freely available for Chrome and as a closed beta for all other browsers) is actually better than Twitter’s own website (though not quite as good as Seesmic Web, in my opinion).
  • Twitter wants to have full control over its ecosystem. [/list]

Of course, there are also some cons. TweetDeck would be the only Adobe AIR-based client in its stable. It would also be the only one with support for Facebook (but that’s easily rectified, I imagine).

Consequence: A Twitter Monoculture

Overall, then, I think it would make sense for Twitter to buy TweetDeck. I’m not sure I like this idea, though. Twitter, it seems, wants to build a monoculture of official clients. This will hold back innovation and hurt Twitter in the long run (how much innovation have we seen from Twitter itself lately, after all?). Twitter needed the third-party ecosystem to grow during its early days and I can’t help but think that it still needs it today.