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After suing Twitter, PeopleBrowsr wins data access back in settlement

After suing Twitter, PeopleBrowsr wins data access back in settlement


A startup fights for the firehose

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A social media analytics company has won access to Twitter's data after the social network attempted to cut it off, an outcome that may come as a surprise to third-party developers who feel jerked around by Twitter's capriciousness when it comes to data access.

Twitter finalized an out-of-court settlement today with PeopleBrowsr, the parent company of social influence startup Kred, which will receive access to Twitter's "firehose" of data for the rest of the year. "We're excited, we're ecstatic," PeopleBrowsr CEO Andrew Grill told The Verge. "It'll be business as usual for our clients."

At the time, Twitter dismissed the suit as preposterous

PeopleBrowsr sued Twitter in November, alleging that shutting off the data connection violated Twitter's initial commitment to openness and endangered PeopleBrowsr's business. "We'd been in a commercial relationship with them for a number of years, and they advised us that they didn't want to continue that," Grill recalled. "So we basically were in dispute because taking away access to the Twitter firehose would be detrimental to our business."

At the time, Twitter dismissed the suit as without merit. Twitter argued that it should have full control over its own data and that if the court ruled otherwise, Twitter said, it would be tantamount to ordering the social network to work with PeopleBrowsr, which is illegal. The San Francisco Superior Court disagreed, however, saying the complaint had merit.

Twitter's "firehose" is the the massive stream of real-time data that the company makes available for third-party apps to use. In the early days, Twitter made these deals directly with companies that wanted firehose access. But recently, Twitter has been handing off those licensing deals to three data providers: DataSift, Gnip, and Topsy, which then rent out parts of the firehose to smaller-fry companies. That's what PeopleBrowsr will have to do after December 31st.

The settlement is not quite a victory for PeopleBrowsr

"We’re pleased to have this matter dismissed with prejudice, and look forward to PeopleBrowsr’s transition by the end of the year off of the Firehose to join the ecosystem of developers utilizing Twitter data via our reseller partnerships," Twitter said in a statement.

The settlement is not quite a victory for PeopleBrowsr, which claims that it needs more access than Twitter's official providers can supply. However, Twitter has been scaling back access to its data for a while, and most developers found they had little recourse other than to accept the social network's decisions. In that sense, PeopleBrowsr is one of the few companies that has successfully fought back.