Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Gnip Becomes Twitter's First Authorized Data Reseller

Twitter has given the start-up Gnip permission to sell its data feeds to developers, the two companies announced today. The arrangement fills in the gaps left by Twitter’s Streaming API pricing model, which doesn’t formally address the difference between emerging applications and giants like Microsoft, which is paying $10 million to get full real-time access to the status updates posted by Twitter users (what’s known as the Firehose). In practice, Twitter had been setting pricing in a way that seemed arbitrary, as I recently reported.

Boulder-based Gnip (the name is “ping” spelled backward) is a middleman between social media sites and social media monitoring companies. The company has raised about $5 million from Foundry Group, SoftTech VC and First Round Capital. Customers include Alterian, Next Big Sound and Attensity.

“The various levels from Twitter have always been confusing and scattered and unofficial, and it’s always been real shaky ground when you work with them,” said Gnip CEO Jud Valeski in a phone interview today. “Nothing against Twitter, it’s just the realities of growing a service that strong and that fast.”

To date, Twitter has offered a paid level (Firehose), a 10 percent sample level to approved developers (Gardenhose) and a 1 percent level to everybody (Spritzer). It doesn’t publicly disclose pricing for the Firehose, but charges different amounts based on how big a company is and what it’s doing with the data.

The new Gnip feeds are only for a certain type of data usage: Analytics and monitoring. Customers must not display the data publicly, but rather use it internally for their own customers–for example, to measure how social media users respond to a Coca-Cola advertising campaign.

Gnip will offer the Halfhose (50 percent of Tweets at a cost of $30,000 per month), the Decahose (10 percent of Tweets for $5,000 per month) and the Mentionhose (all mentions of a user including @replies and re-Tweets for $20,000 per month). All feeds are available in original JSON and Activity Streams JSON formats.

Analytics providers who were previously using Twitter’s Gardenhose for free will now have to start paying Gnip for the Decahose. Twitter has also said it’s planning its own free lightweight analytics product, but that’s not out yet.

Some more background from my previous story:

What does it cost to drink from the Firehose? That depends. Twitter’s pricing plans appear to vary wildly, from the big search companies on down to folks prototyping a brainstorm. Multiple Twitter developers told me they felt Twitter’s pricing seemed to be totally arbitrary, and based on whatever Twitter thought they’d be able to pay.

Twitter business development guy Doug Williams said it’s true that Twitter has no structured way to price access between the 10 percent of the Gardenhose and the 100 percent of the Firehose, though the company is likely to develop more levels of pricing.

“Twitter is focused on creating consumer products and we’re not built to license data,” Williams said, adding, “Twitter has always invested in the ecosystem and startups and we believe that a lot of innovation can happen on top of the data. Pricing and terms definitely vary by where you are from a corporate perspective.”

It’s not only how big you are, but what you do with the data. According to a developer, analytics players are asked to pay the most, because they take Twitter content but don’t contribute it or drive content to Twitter. Those who display and process content in a way that drives traffic pay less, and those who help generate content pay the least. As I understand it, some developers who make Twitter clients don’t pay anything at all for streaming API access.

Image courtesy Minnesota National Guard on Picasa.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work