November 29, 2012

PeopleBrowsr Fights For Access To Twitter’s ‘Firehose’ Of Data

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Twitter has spent most of this year spreading its wings, if you will, pushing its partners further away as it stretches its feathers. This summer, for instance, they restricted services such as Tumblr and Instagram from letting their users look for their friends on Twitter though their services. Each of these moves have been a way for Twitter to have complete control of their “firehose” of data, making and official Twitter apps the main gateway by which users access their feeds.

One of these companies, which Twitter has recently pushed away from, is PeopleBrowsr, a social analytics company who makes tools such as Kred.

Twitter was ready to cut PeopleBrowsr and Kred from their firehose of data as of November 30th of this year. PeopleBrowsr, however, took Twitter to court and yesterday won a temporary restraining order against the micro-blogging service. Now, PeopleBrowsr will have access to Twitter´s data, at least until the court can make a final decision on the case. The hearing for this case is set to start on January 8th, 2013.

A Twitter spokesperson sent a statement to TechCrunch regarding this case, saying: “We believe the case is without merit and will vigorously defend against it.”

While this is only a small temporary win, it is one which many watchers may have been expecting. Companies such as PeopleBrowsr have set their entire business models on top of data that Twitter had been, until recently, freely handing out. Now that they´re removing the right for people to access this data, companies such as PeopleBrowsr have either begun to fight back or look for new means of revenue.

In their lawsuit, PeopleBrowsr claimed they´ve paid Twitter $1 million per year over the past 4 years to have access to their data. In 2011, Twitter allegedly issued the first warning to PeopleBrowsr that they´d soon be shutting off the firehose, offering it only to "a limited number of 'Twitter-driven' partnerships that it can closely control."

Then, in May 2012, Twitter sent another message to PeopleBrowsr, saying they “should plan to transition off the full Firehose feed” as well as “seek access to a portion of the Firehose through Gnip or DataSift.”

DataSift and Gnip are services that also offer the Twitter firehose of data, albeit a limited stream of data as opposed to the full hose.

Additionally, DataSift and Gnip are also counted as Twitter´s “Controlled Partners,” meaning if at any time Twitter wanted to cut off the firehose, it could.

PeopleBrowsr CEO Jodee Rich addressed this lawsuit in a recent blog post, saying his company only intended to keep Twitter as an open ecosystem.

“We relied on Twitter´s promise of openness when we invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours of development time,” said Mr. Rich.

“Long term supply is essential as this industry matures. We made this application to ensure full unrestricted access to the Firehose for our Enterprise and Government clients.”

TechCrunch´s Drew Olanoff has little sympathy for PeopleBrowsr, saying that while companies have built their businesses on top of Twitter´s data, it´s always been Twitter´s data to do with what they will.

“However, this move is PR,” writes Olanoff. PeopleBrowsr “This is marketing. Sadly, this is not about the technology or the users. It´s just an ugly car wreck. Move along – nothing to see here.”