Social data aggregator Gnip is partnering with Twitter to provide access to the microblogging giant's firehose at various levels through its Gnip API, but only for analysis, not display. Additionally, Twitter is transitioning all "gardenhose" developers--those receiving 10% of the Twitter stream--over to Gnip's service. Twitter, which has carefully chosen firehose customers in the past, now can focus on its core product, rather than directly selling access to its users' data.
The Gnip blog explains the market opportunity:
There’s enormous corporate demand for better monitoring and analytics tools, which help companies listen to their customers on Twitter and understand conversations about their brands and products. Twitter has partnered with Gnip to sublicense access to public Tweets, which is great news for developers interested in analyzing large amounts of this data. This partnership opens the door to developers who want to use Twitter streams to create monitoring and analytics tools for the non-display market.
Of course, the last line there is fairly important. You can access these streams via Gnip, but only if you don't display tweets. In other words, you'll need to perform analysis on the data. This frees Twitter up to still charge a premium for firehose clients, such as Google, which uses recent tweets in some search results. Gnip has not made public its pricing details.
The public APIs currently serving up slices of Twitter, such as the streaming API, remain the same, as Twitter's Ryan Sarver assures developers:
Our default levels like Spritzer, Follow and Track will not be changing, and will remain free and available directly from Twitter. Companies and developers are encouraged to begin development with these free APIs, available at http://dev.twitter.com/pages/streaming_api.
Even with the non-display restrictions, Twitter's move to partner with another company for data is surprising given its trend toward bringing core functionality in-house. Perhaps this means that selling data for analysis is not part of what Twitter sees as its core functionality. Rather, it will focus on creating a product that continues to serve the needs of its users. Also, Twitter's revenue attention seems to be more on the advertising opportunities, such as the promoted tweets it's been testing.