End Of Twitter's Firehose Is Just Beginning For Innovation

Twitter recently announced that it is ending third-party agreements for the resale of its Firehose data: the full, unfiltered stream of tweets available from the service. Many people have expressed concern that this move will directly affect third-party data resellers, and that the Firehose consolidation will be bad for Twitter in the long run. The announcement has also spawned a deluge of doomsday headlines about the death of innovation.


Twitter has a different outlook on turning off the partner spigot of the hose. The consolidation of Twitter’s data will allow Twitter/Gnip to focus on improved quality and responsiveness. As Zach Hofter-Shall, head of Twitter ecosystem, noted on his blog,  “Direct relationships help Twitter develop a deeper understanding of customer needs, get direct feedback for the product roadmap, and work more closely with data customers to enable the best possible solutions for the brands that rely on Twitter data to make better decisions.”

So, while Twitter focuses on improving its core products, a whole subset of companies, more advanced and focused than some of the simple “Twitter mimic” applications, will evolve. These companies will be able to drive value for all of the opportunities that Twitter won’t have the time, interest or ability to focus on.

Forbes contributor Ben Kepes shined a light on these opportunities in a post: “[W]ith all the will in the world, [Twitter] will not be able to cover all use cases. Business constraints will push them to focus on the most lucrative and largest. Niche cases just won’t be served.”

Kepes also goes on to say that “Many of the most interesting use cases involve co-mingling (public) data from Twitter and other social sources: this is very hard to do well and just got a lot harder.”

Indeed the “most interesting” use cases involve some combination of Twitter data with other forms of social data — and, probably most compelling from a big data standpoint, the integration and accessibility of first-party private data sets such as CRM and marketing automation, transactional data, POS data. As the Internet of Things evolves, the list will grow.

The ecosystem of companies who can do this “co-mingling of data” well is not a large one, and the ones who excel will continue to find ways to innovate.  Leveraging Twitter data as an input to the aggregation, analysis and visualization of other (rapidly growing) streams of public, private and social data will ultimately yield better, more diverse and more scalable solutions for all kinds of business use cases.

Companies that understand how to extract the right data from Twitter and other social and public sources will be able to create a better view of how consumers are interacting within their worlds and deeper insight into competitive intelligence and market research.  Innovations around the co-mingling of data will allow marketers and ultimately product developers to be more thoughtful in how they market and what they build.  

Facebook is constantly announcing changes to its platform that many view as a threat to the companies that are using their APIs and innovating from the outside in.  Those that face the challenge head-on and find a creative workaround  will succeed. Those that don’t… well,they just disappear.

So thank you, Twitter.  You have just set the bar a little higher.  Let’s now watch and see who can stretch far enough to ride a wave of new innovation.

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