Is a Twitter competitor quietly being assembled in plain sight?

Is a Twitter competitor quietly being assembled?

Whenever we talk about "the next this" or "the next that", we always end up talking about what it would take for the next big thing to gain critical mass. How many members would someone need to sign up to loosen Facebook's hold on the market? How about Twitter? What if someone was able to "flip a switch" and instantly have tens of millions of members? Would that be enough to make them a real player overnight? I think we're going to find out. Prepare for a good 'ol conspiracy theory!

TechCrunch just broke the news that TweetDeck has been acquired for approximately $25-30 million. It was purchased by UberMedia (a company that has changed its name almost as often as Prince) which is run by Bill Gross, of Idealab fame. The company has now snapped up 3 of the major Twitter clients in just the past month and a half! In the process, they have gained critical access to a very meaningful portion of the Twitter community.

It looks like EchoFon (acquired in January) has around 3 million users. UberTwitter (another January acquisition) has about 9 million installations. The latest addition, TweetDeck, has somewhere around 15 million. Granted, some people use multiple clients and some portion of these "users" are not active, but that still gives UberMedia instant access to a huge group of presumably active Tweeters.

More important than just reaching them, is WHERE UberMedia is reaching them: inside the tools they already use to post their tweets. How hard would it be to add a button or option to post to a brand new microblog platform? Not very hard. What if a new platform specifically adds in some features that Twitter itself doesn't offer? Let's say, for argument's sake, that one new feature was the ability to post messages longer than 140 characters?

Oh wait…. Tweetdeck recently launched Deck.ly for that purpose, didn't they? ;-)

Is Bill Gross rapidly building a Trojan Bird to invade Twitter's fortress? Are UberMedia's engineers secretly creating a portal to an alternate Twitterverse? At the pace things are developing, I think we'll find out sooner rather than later!

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