The on-again, off-again talks between Google and Twitter are apparently on again, according to a new rumor—only this time Microsoft's in the mix too. But what are these three talking about? Data on all those Tweeps and Tweets, in real time.
The usual anonymous sources tell Kara Swisher at AllThingsD that Twitter's in "advanced talks" with both Google and Microsoft separately, with the intention of forging a data-mining deal for both companies' search engines. The idea is that the full streaming feed from Twitter's millions of users would be licensed for a fee, giving Google and Bing a real-time data/news/social networking stream that they currently lack. It could also earn Twitter a share of any resulting ad revenue.
The rumor aligns well with what we already know: Google would love to get access to true real-time data, and Microsoft already tried a limited live search tap into the Twitter feeds of "prominent" Tweeps—expanding that into full access would make sense, and it would set Bing up to rival Google on a more even footing. Twitter, for its part, is reportedly avoiding exclusivity with deals like this, in order to remain independent, and it could certainly turn a nice profit by licensing its data. Some might say it's about time the cash began to flow in to the microblogging site, which is still being mysterious about its business plans, and this sort of deal would be the perfect way to do it.
Selling user data to make money in a depressed online advertising economy could definitely be called an emerging trend. Something similar happened just last week, with news of Intuit's purchase of Mint—while it's mainly a deal concerned with absorbing the competition in a niche Web services market, it was also a deal to let Intuit get its hands on the profitable user data collected by Mint. There's clearly gold in them there data hills, which is absolutely what Google and Microsoft think about Twitter...but anyone who licenses Twitter data had better do so carefully and delicately, since some users are getting touchy about how companies treat their public info.