ICE was able to buy the Big Board because commodities and futures markets now offer more action, more trading volume and more transaction processing capability than traditional stocks. Stocks like Twitter get the headlines, but it is futures markets that have the volume.

An exchange, in the end, is just like any other transaction processing business. The quality of the computer services it provides determines its financial fate, and the volume of the transactions it processes define its finances.

That's what people are looking at with Twitter as well, transaction volume. The company says it now has more than 200 million active users creating more than 500 million "tweets" per day. While it began supporting just the 140 characters of a cell phone's SMS message, many tweets now incorporate pictures and video.

There's little technical difference from processing tweets and moving money around, whether the data represents your desire for coffee, your purchase at a store or a big block of stock. It all needs to be handled reliably, in real time and at scale.

So the final irony in all this is that, after its IPO is completed, Twitter will technically have the capital base to buy the exchange it is listing on. ICE is paying $8.2 billion for the NYSE, and the Twitter IPO is expected to raise about $15 billion.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.

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