Topsy, a search tool based on real-time social media activity, has unveiled a new service called Topsy Social Analytics that tracks the rise and fall in popularity of specific pieces of online content as well as broader trends in online discussion. The analytics tool, like the Topsy API, uses publicly available data from Twitter to rank content and identify trends.
According to Topsy, the company focuses on such a rapid-fire communication medium because it "is the fastest growing source of information on the Web, with social graphs replacing PageRank as the new 'signal' for identifying relevant content."
Of course, that signal isn't always entirely clear. Topsy sifts through data from Twitter, assigning influence weights to different users and taking spam accounts out of its tallies in order to get a clearer picture of what people are really linking to and talking about. That processing is at the heart of Topsy's products. The information itself is free, available through Twitter's API. But Topsy must be doing something to make it significantly more useful—the company is already serving 500 million requests each month, most of them through its own "Otter" API.
Some of the applications using the Topsy API treat the service like a search engine. For instance, one of the examples in Topsy's list of featured Otter apps is "Social Media Fight", which does nothing more than compare the number of hits two terms get, just like Google Fight years before it.
Other, more sophisticated implementations lean further towards the analysis end of Topsy's functionality. HootSuite, a social media campaign management tool used by major brands and agencies, uses Topsy's API to provide users insights into who influences who on Twitter.
Topsy's new analytics product isn't publicly available through an open API, but the site invites developers to get in touch with the company's business development team about building integrations.
HootSuite or any other company that might make serious use of Topsy's APIs could, of course, also just pull data directly from Twitter. But those companies would still be left with the task of processing the results into useful information, which is becoming a bigger and bigger job as Twitter's user base grows. Topsy provides a layer between the raw tweets available from Twitter and organizations interested in what can be learned from that content collectively. It's an interesting niche to fill and a testament to the expanding role of social web service APIs. The ecosystem is mature and active enough that it can maintain a services that exists as a layer between an API provider and consumers.