Scripting News for 4/4/2008

Why did Seesmic buy Twhirl? 

Yesterday Seesmic announced that they’re buying Twhirl, the AIR-based Twitter client.

I usually don’t comment on acquisitions, but this one is right up my alley and I can offer some insight without breaking any confidences. I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last year trying to understand Twitter, and it’s not an easy thing to figure out, so I welcome the chance to discuss it again from another point of view.

First, a disclaimer, I considered investing in Seesmic, even announced that I was doing so, then changed my mind. If the stock market hadn’t tanked I almost certainly would have gone ahead with the investment.

Second, I think buying Twhirl is probably a brilliant move for Seesmic. I can’t tell for sure because we don’t know how much they paid for it, but assuming it was a reasonable amount (low six figures) what Seesmic gets, as Om wisely says, is the only thing that matters — users.

That’s the first epiphany that’s available from using Twitter. It’s all about the users. It’s the second epiphany and the 208th. Nothing else matters, not even the reliability of the system (though that’s much better these days) — even on its most flaky days, there was never an exodus to any of the alternative systems that exist. However, fortunately for Twitter, none of the alternative systems have tried to clone Twitter, and that may be in Seesmic’s future, but I get ahead of myself.

Another reason it’s potentially a brilliant move is that it keeps Seesmic in the conversation. After an initial rollout that made Seesmic the talk of the town for a couple of months, now the cursor has moved on (not sure where), and Seesmic isn’t that much the topic du jour. With a Twitter client with say 10K or 20K users (they’ve had 100K downloads) now there are all those people that Loic can pitch daily in hopefully a tasteful not too intrusive way.

Another key thing — now you don’t have to “go” somewhere else to see a Seesmic video. If you live in Twhirl (they should change the name, please, it’s so hard to type) one suspects that Seesmic videos will not come to you through the normal Twitter mechanism with a bit of text and a URL. They can make it much more seamless, and I bet they do. And in doing so they will be creating a very nice demo of payloads, something I’ve been saying Twitter themselves should be doing. But, no problem, now Seesmic can, at least for video (which is a very large piece of the problem).

No matter if any of this speculation is correct, if the price was right, Seesmic bought access to some very good users and they have the ability to converse with them through the very personable Loic at the helm.

Update: Compete.com comparison between Seesmic and Twhirl. Tells an interesting story.

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