It sounds like one of those deals that's too big - or at least too obvious - to be true; Google in talks to buy Twitter.
TechCrunch reports three sources on acquisition talks, with scant detail including price. The assumption is that it would be more than the company's internal valuation of $250m, and a more secure figure than the $500m in stock deal that Twitter turned down from Facebook last year.
But talks for what? Would this be an outright acquisition, part acquisition or a search deal?
I said when Facebook talks were reported that it would be sad to see Twitter lose its independence, though it is perhaps inevitable. Twitter is backed by some extremely influential investors who, despite their apparently unwavering support for the firm, will want a meaty return on their investments at some point. What could be more reliable in the web world than hard Google cash, with some shares thrown in for good measure?
It could be for a stake in the firm, which would mean Twitter retained control and that precious independence. Real-time communication and search, along with social media context, are going becoming crucial to the web - as Google knows. It's not inconceivable, you could argue, that those dynamics could push Twitter to same heights as even Google one day, and then they will wish they had that precious autonomy.
The third scenario is a partnership between the two around real-time search, and as TechCrunch says: "Google doesn't even have a horse in the game", referring to the once-rival Jaiku that it bought but later closed. You can guarantee that the two are talking about a search tie-up at least.
Though much of the recent media buzz around Twitter has been outside its control (Twitter has only just stated recruiting a PR...), it has also created intense interest in the site and no doubt helped bolster its valuation claims.
What else does this say about Twitter? With the big 'if' caveat - if this is true - it vindicates Twitter's regular assurances that there really is money in them there hills. Google clearly sees where the money lies, and it will be fascinating to see what unfolds.
• Update: Fulfilling her professional obligation to disprove anything TechCrunch claims as an exclusive, Kara Swisher on AllThingsD says acquisition talks are inaccurate and that talks are focused on "product-related discussions". Swisher reports another source who said of an acquisition: "Seriously, no negotiations, no deal, nada."
So more strength, then, to a collaborative deal on real-time search. At the moment, you can supplement Google's usual search with real-time Twitter results if you use a Greasemonkey Firefox plugin. But these two will be talking about something far more substantial that takes real-time search mainstream.
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