Gnip gets $2M to resell the Twitter firehose

Ronny Kerr · November 18, 2010 · Short URL:

Social media data startup partners with Twitter to sublicense access to half of the firehose tweets


[Updated at 7:51 PST, Nov. 19 to clarify details of funding round.]

Gnip, a social media data provider for businesses, has raised a $2 million funding round led by previous investor Foundry Group with participation from First Round Capital, another existing investor. The news was uncovered by NetworkEffect. Additionally, Gnip announced a partnership with Twitter that will allow it to sell access to the data fountain of tweets known as the “firehose.”

Access to the firehose has been in demand since 2008, but Twitter is more important today than it has ever been. In turn, discovering what Twitter users are tweeting is more important than ever. The deal is less about making revenue for Twitter and more about distributing the data, according to Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, as were the deals Twitter made with Microsoft and Google (and later Yahoo) to incorporate tweets into search results. So said Williams yesterday onstage with John Battelle of Federated Media in the final Web 2.0 Summit conversation:

"Specifically, we've gotten demand from people and companies that want to look at this data to learn about trends and analytics for marketers and other companies to see what people are saying about X, Y, or Z,” explained Williams. “And there are a million ways to slice and dice this data, but we're not really in that business.”

Effective immediately, Gnip is charged withfirehose sublicensing public tweet data to developers. The data is available in three different forms, none of which provides the full Twitter firehose previously available.

The Halfhose is literally 50% of the full firehose. (In the same Web 2.0 chat, Williams claimed that “half is more than enough to do statistically relevant analysis on any topic analysis of data.") The Mentionhose is the stream of tweets that mention a specific user, including replies and retweets. The Decahose is 10% of the full firehose. Gnip says more are on the way and based on Twitter’s internal nicknames for some of them--”hosebird,” “hosedog,” “gardenhose”--they could be interesting.

Founded in 2008 by Eric Marcoullier, who sold his previous company MyBlogLog to Yahoo a year earlier for an estimated $10 million, Gnip has now raised a total of $6.5 million. At launch, Marcoullier had already raised $1 million from Foundry Group and SoftTech VC, with partners Brad Feld and Jeff Clavier, respectively, joining Gnip’s board. At the end of 2008, Gnip picked up another $3.5 million from the two prior investors plus First Round Capital. Marcoullier now operates a new site, onetruefan, which lets users see who's looking at the same websites as themselves.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.


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