Twitter announced today a new partnership with social data streaming service Gnip at the Defrag Conference outside of Denver: Gnip will offer 50% of all the messages posted to Twitter for $360,000 per year, or 5% of all messages for $60,000 per year. Pricing is not yet on the Gnip site, but was disclosed in an interview with ReadWriteWeb.

Customers will only be allowed to analyze the messages, not display them, and resale of the content itself will remain prohibited. The two companies emphasized that this is the first time a structured, reliable arrangement has been available for the many customers interested in purchasing a large quantity of streaming Tweets. Sale of the 100% full firehose will remain in the hands of Twitter itself. The full firehose contains approximately 1,000 Tweets every second.

See social data developer Pete Warden's in-depth analysis of today's Twitter news earlier today on ReadWriteWeb.
Is this price going to cut too many small innovators out of the market? "There are companies willing to pay that much," says independent data developer Pete Warden about the price, "and turning the data stream into a profit center gives Twitter a strong incentive to pump resources into their API and external developers, instead of treating them as nuisances." Warden recently wrote a blog post advocating paid API access, Information Wants to be Paid. "I am a little sad that we can't get access to all the data we want for free," Warden said today, "but the alternative to commercial access isn't a socialist utopia of free data, it's no access at all."

Gnip CEO Jud Valeski (right) says that there has long been a black market for this kind of data. "The grey area around Twitter data access allowed that black market to grow," he says. Won't someone fill the demand for the new level of data at 10% Gnip's price on the black market? "Someone will fill that demand," Valeski said, "but Gnip is guaranteed to deliver 50% indefinitely and legitimately."

Developers using Twitter's "Spritzer" feed, which delivers a random selection of 2% of all Tweets, will continue to be able to do so for free. The larger "Garden Hose" will no longer be made available and Twitter's Ryan Sarver says the company hasn't decided yet how to transition that informal program.

This could be just the beginning of something very big. "I wonder if the glory days of open data sharing are coming to an end," says Steve Rubel, SVP, Director of Insights for Edelman Digital.

"All these platforms, pick any one of them, they all realize that the data they have is extremely valuable to everyone from API partners to marketers to in some cases even ordinary consumers. I think all these companies could see that there's more money in data services than there could be for them in advertising. No one is going to have more data than the platforms themselves - for Twitter that could be a bigger money maker than advertising."

That's all well and good for Twitter's bottom line, but will it be a net positive for the larger developer community and users of their software? Or is this a case of Twitter and Gnip selling a potential public good at a price out of range of the people most likely to create radical new innovations out of it? If instead this monetization of Twitter data makes everyday developer access more financially viable for the long term, then perhaps it will be a good thing.