Copyright Marisa Allegra Williams (@marisa) for Twitter, Inc.

Twitter Puts Its Money On Data

on Wednesday, Apr. 16th

I often worry about Twitter.

As a certified (but not verified) Twitter addict the service is usually the first thing I interact with every day. The relationship can be tumultuous at times–there’s nothing like having to “go dark” because you are time shifting the latest Game of Thrones episode.

These are not the reasons that I worry about Twitter. I worry about Twitter because I can’t see the game plan. Every recent stab at “innovation” has seemed like a lame “me too” move that apes a Facebook product.

Twitter, after all, has to find a way to make the green just like everyone else. They’ve followed the advertising model that made Google and Facebook multi-billion dollar properties, but that has meant chasing quantity of users over quality. Meanwhile the company let other firms roost in their henhouse, providing marketers with data and powerful tools to connect with Twitter’s often highly engaged user base.

This week Twitter appears to have become aware it was leaving money on the table and bought the data company Gnip:

We want to make our data even more accessible, and the best way to do that is to work directly with our customers to get a better understanding of their needs. To that end, we have agreed to acquire Gnip, a leading provider of social data and a long-standing Twitter data partner. As Twitter has grown into a platform that delivers more than 500 million Tweets per day, Gnip has played a crucial role in collecting and digesting our public data and delivering the most essential Tweets to partners.

This is a move that is long, long overdue. In the early days of the company Twitter allowed a robust third-party infrastructure to grow around it–recall, if you will, the explosion of third party apps–and has since hobbled that business in an effort to control user’s attention.

Instead of mucking around with the user experience the company could have been providing insight and analysis to power users and brands. The Gnip purchase shows that the company has its head on straight again.

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