Twitter buys BackType to process those 200M tweets

Ronny Kerr · July 5, 2011 · Short URL:

Every day, users send out 200 million tweets, and Twitter wants to process them in realtime

Twitter analytics platform BackType announced Tuesday that it has been acquired by Twitter. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Here’s the company’s official statement:

Our vision at BackType has always been to help our customers understand the value of engagement on Twitter and other social platforms. We also created BackTweets to help publishers understand the reach of their tweets and content, who they are reaching, and how Tweets covert to web traffic, sales and other KPIs.

Joining Twitter gives us the opportunity to bring insight to tens of millions of publishers around the world that are using Twitter to communicate and connect with their audience. We’re also excited to bring our technology (especially Storm) to Twitter where it can have a big impact across the company.

While today’s Twitter acquisition is a lot less high-profile than the last--an estimated $50 million purchase of TweetDeck--it is no less important to the company.

More than ever before, real-time analysis of the Twitter stream is a hefty and significant task. Last week, Twitter revealed that users are now sending out 200 million tweets per day. A year ago, there were 65 million tweets going out per day. In January 2009, just two million.

To date, BackType has analyzed 50 billion tweets, 10 billion links and 200 million accounts.

Most recently, the company was working on a stream processing system called Storm, which they were calling the “Hadoop of realtime processing.” On a fast-paced microblogging site like Twitter, the chief value is in the most up-to-the-minute posts. While the site is often compared to Facebook for its social element, the truth is that Twitter is best seen as an information network, with outlets in users all around the globe.

Current BackType users can (for now) still use the service for free, but the company will no longer accept new registrants. As time goes on, products and API services will be discontinued.

The four-person BackType team will be joining Twitter at its headquarters in San Francisco, Calif.

Since its founding in 2008, BackType had raised a little over $1 million from Y Combinator, True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, Manu Kumar, Chris Sacca, Raymond Tonsing and Seth Berman.

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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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