As part of a broad effort to draw in more users, Twitter is reportedly in negotiations to purchase popular client TweetDeck for $50 million, according to sources who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.
TweetDeck has become the must-have app for power users, due to its customizable columns feature, which gives users the ability to manage multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts in the same window. (Users can also connect and manage MySpace, LinkedIn and Foursquare accounts from TweetDeck.)
While TweetDeck often enjoys the title of “most popular Twitter client,” it is not actually clear how many total users the client has, as the company has never released those numbers.
In addition to an Adobe Air desktop client, TweetDeck, which employs 15 people and is based in the UK, also has web app versions for Google’s Chrome browser, as well as Firefox and other browsers, and versions for Apple iOS, BlackBerry and Google Android mobile operating systems.
As industry watchers have surely noted, Twitter is not the first company to reportedly show interest in buying TweetDeck. In the middle of February, reports surfaced that UberMedia had agreed to purchase TweetDeck for $30 million.
While relations between TweetDeck and Twitter have always seemed cooperative — TweetDeck lists Twitter’s paid-for “promoted tweets” on its trends list, for instance — the same cannot be said for its relationship with UberMedia, which owns and operates a number of widely used Twitter clients, including Echofon and Twidroyd.
If reports that Twitter is making moves to buy TweetDeck are true, it means either the UberMedia deal is off, or the Twitter and UberMedia are now in a bidding war over the client.
Twitter has made a number of moves recently to get its house in order. In addition to top-level changes within the company, that strategy includes making clear to third-party app developers that the Twitter no longer views straight Twitter clients that replicate the social media service’s functionality (like TweetDeck does) in a favorable light.
Instead, Twitter has demanded that developers focus on apps that expand upon the service, like social photo app Instagram and Foursquare do. Any apps that fail to add functionality will be rejected, Twitter said. (Though one fine example, TweetBot, appears to have slipped through the cracks.)
Twitter has refused to comment on the TweetDeck purchase rumor, saying in a tweet: “We don’t comment on rumors. We don’t provide off-the-record background on rumors. We don’t wink twice or release puffs of smoke abt rumors.”
That doesn’t mean the rumor isn’t true, however. It simply means that Twitter is not in a position to talk about the matter. So check back as this story develops further.