Photo: Johnson Cameraface
Twitter, the global network for short bursts of information, is buying a startup, Crashlytics, that tracks when bad code causes apps to fail abruptly.Notably, it appears to be leaving Crashlytics alone. TechCrunch reports that Twitter is not relocating the team from Cambridge, Mass. to Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, and allowing it to continue to serve other customers like Yelp and Waze.
Twitter uses Crashlytics in its own app, as well as Vine, a recently launched app for sharing short, simply edited videos.
Which brings us to an interesting point: Is Twitter changing its acquisition strategy?
Twitter has primarily bought pieces of its own ecosystem, bringing in-house functions previously developed by third-party developers. Summize, a search engine for tweets, and Tweetie, the basis of Twitter’s iPhone client, are prominent examples. Those deals have been largely successful, allowing Twitter users to find tweets and use Twitter-branded mobile apps.
It has also bought startups for their talent. Mixer Labs, a location-software startup; Posterous, a blogging platform akin to Tumblr; and Bagcheck, a list-sharing site, are two examples. Those results have been more mixed:
- Mixer Labs CEO Elad Gil stayed for two and a half years, running corporate strategy. He left in May 2012.
- Posterous CEO Sachin Agarwal played a key role in Twitter’s new photo features.
- Bagcheck cofounder Sam Pullara stayed for just a year on Twitter’s engineering team.
With Crashlytics and Vine, Twitter is setting a new pattern: Buying startups and leaving them alone to develop products in Twitter’s safe nest.
The model here is Google’s acquisition of Android and YouTube, which it ran for years as standalone divisions.
Twitter’s motives may vary deal by deal. As a Crashlytics customer, it may not have wanted the startup to end up in the hands of hostile rivals like Google or Facebook, who surely wouldn’t mind learning about the ins and outs of Twitter’s mobile-app code.
Vine, on the other hand, seems to have simply charmed Twitter’s leaders with the premise of a new art form, a video version of Twitter’s 140-character tweets.
But whatever the specific reasoning to buy a company, it’s very interesting that Twitter’s breaking from the acquire-hire pattern of buying startups and crushing what makes them unique.