Josh Chandler likely didn't know the rumor avalanche he was going to start when he posted yesterday that a "source" informed him that Twitter was to buy Summize, the conversational search engine. Neither Twitter nor Summize have confirmed or responded to requests for answers, but Om Malik over at GigaOm claims to have confirmed the deal.
At least this move by Twitter would make eventual sense. Recent blogs speculating about how Twitter could take on a trusted payment service not only raise concerns but aren't necessarily even feasible, especially considering Twitter's current business focus. This Summize move is quite feasible, as Biz Stone told me just last month that once the microblogging service stabilizes its priority will shift to providing improved search capabilities.
In the same interview, Stone told me that in improving features the company wants to focus on providing localized searches. This is something that Summize does quite well, versus competitors such as Twellow, which focuses more on category searches, and TweetScan, which only allows search by keyword or name (and, quite honestly, has been rendered almost irrelevant by Summize). More than search, Summize offers the ability for any users to do trending analysis on any topic of choice that might be discussed via the Twitter public timeline.
Great, right? But the service hasn't yet stabilized. So, if this purchase is indeed real, what gives?
Twitter has been very vocal over the last couple of months in addressing user and blogger criticism about the stability of its service, stating many times that its first priority in improving the service is to make it work. This was also a named priority when it was recently announced that Twitter raised an additional $15 million in funding. But the site stability has only slightly improved since May and the chunks of downtime remain the same (though admittedly, at least now Twitter is announcing planned downtime).
Some say that the site needs to make "fixes." Others say the whole backbone of the service needs to be reconstructed. Only Twitter knows this for certain. And while this rumored purchase makes financial sense in that Twitter needs to make a healthy investment with its venture capital funds, the general user is likely to be concerned that Twitter's priorities are amiss and that the company may not be working as diligently to fix the platform as it claims. While no Compete.com statistics show a loss in Twitter users over the last two months (much the opposite, actually), many microblogging fans are spending more time with Plurk, FriendFeed, and even newcomers Kwippy and Identi.ca.
If this deal goes down and is announced next week as suggested, Twitter would be very smart to state that the timing of this purchase goes hand-in-hand with its in-progress back-end improvements and reconstruction, rather than indicating that its only going to use Summize to swap out its existing lacking search functionality. With all of the other microblogging services popping up almost weekly, Twitter needs to consider user loyalty and make sure we all know that this move is on a path of making things better for us.
And if this deal is, indeed, just a rumor maybe its made enough of a splash for Twitter to truly consider -- once it brings back reliable microblogging to its masses.