Twitter is cutting deals with third-party providers of services that re-syndicate Tweets online, the company announced today, and the first one is Austin, Texas-based Mass Relevance. Mass Relevance has access to the full Twitter fire hose and offers its customers a filtering, curation and display technology to add Tweets about a TV show, political campaign or other event to their web pages.
The potential for syndicated Tweets is big, but hopefully Twitter won't go after everyone else in the world who puts Tweets on other websites as a part of their business. The company doesn't seem to be welcoming interested parties to license those rights either. We've asked Twitter for comment on the prospect of enforcement of the prohibition against unofficial resyndication of Tweets (who said this stuff was free as the wind?) but haven't heard back from the company yet. (Update: Twitter's comment below.)
Mass Relevance looks like a cool service and it seems pretty straight forward. There's no indication of how much the company paid for the right to resell Tweets, but they probably paid dearly. Twitter's terms of service read "You will not attempt or encourage others to:
sell, rent, lease, sublicense, redistribute, or syndicate access to the Twitter API or Twitter Content to any third party without prior written approval from Twitter."
Below: No unauthorized Tweets on TV! An example from licensee Mass Relevance's website.
Twitter as a developer platform has traveled a rocky road, lots of highs and lots of lows. Enabling serious business use of Tweets is going to be an important next step. Hopefully that will happen in a way that's accessible to small developers and allows them to create the fabulous things a broad ecosystem can produce better than one consisting of a limited set of high-end companies.
A number of the leaders of Twitter's partnership team came from Current.TV, where in the last Presidential election there was some great work done showing live Tweets with live video of Presidential debates. Will use cases like that have to pay up in the future? Will it be a price that won't stifle experimentation? For what it's worth, were we all posting messages on a distributed, open source, microblogging protocol this probably wouldn't be happening.
Writing on the Twitter developers' blog, Twitter's Jason Costa wrote today, "Expect to see additional partnerships of this kind as we look for new ways to help everyone get the best out of Twitter."
ORLY? That doesn't sound like "click here to buy a license." That sounds like Twitter is going to drive this themselves, the company is looking for new ways to help everyone get the best out of Twitter. Isn't the lesson of a platform that no single company will ever be able to produce as much innovation as a larger ecosystem of independent developers?
Am I the only one feeling uncomfortable about this?
Update: In response to this article and an email inquiry, Twitter's Jodi Olsen offered the following comment. "We're not disclosing terms of the deal, but this is about growth--not a revenue play for us. Our goal with this partnership, which we expect to be the first of many, is to empower the ecosystem and help media grow."