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Apple Buys Topsy, Makes Play For Twitter’s Firehose of Data

By Brenda Barron – Dec 4, 2013 at 8:14AM

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Apple has a history of buying up small tech firms, but what will the Topsy acquisition mean for Twitter integration?

Apple (AAPL -1.41%) just snatched up Topsy, a company best known for its Twitter (TWTR) analytics tool, leaving everyone wondering what Apple has up its sleeves. Is it an attempt to integrate Twitter into more Apple products? Does the company want to get its hands in what's lovingly referred to as the "fire hose" -- the entire list of tweets sent since 2006? Or is Apple going to roll this small tech firm into current product development as it's done with others like it, including Polar Rose? No one knows for certain what the end goal here is, but the possibilities have us--ahem--atwitter. 

What Twitter integration could mean for Apple 

Topsy analyzes data accumulated from tweets to help people make decisions about marketing. Use of Topsy allows you to see what topics are hot right this second, allowing companies to target their tweets and messages directly to their audience. It's incredibly useful.

In Apple's hands, we could definitely see Topsy powering media and messages for specific products from the Cupertino company. For instance, iTunes users might see the integration of song, TV show, and movie recommendations based on what they've tweeted about and what they've watched in the past. Twitter integration would give iTunes just one more--albeit, very large--data set to use to extrapolate information about users and offer personalized suggestions. 

A similar model could be used for the App Store. Since Twitter conversations tend to focus on entertainment and multimedia topics, discussion of apps is commonplace there. This could lead to custom suggestions for apps as well.

And then there's Siri. The voice assistant is useful now, but what if it could offer up more personalized results for each search query? Making use of the driving engine behind Topsy could very well give iPhone and iPad users a greater level of detail and more customization for search. While intuitive search kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies a la Google's Private Search, it's actually really useful so it would make sense for Apple to try to hone in on this advancement even further. 

All hail the firehose 

But the potential benefits of the Topsy acquisition don't stop with the end-user. Let's not forget about the possibilities for the selling of Apple products themselves, not just the micro-transactions conducted on them. People talk on Twitter about what computer they use, what phone they use, etc. Surely, Apple could make use of the tweet log for #apple! 

And all of those companies that work with Apple can utilize Twitter's big data, too. Online advertisers, in particular, have a lot to gain here. iTunes Radio is fueled by advertisers. If they could offer more personalized ads to users, that'd be a definite plus. The same goes for iAd users. Companies who advertise on iAd could use the up-to-the-minute data Topsy accumulates from Twitter to market more efficiently with a reduced margin of error.

This is good news for end-users, too. Wouldn't it be nice if you were listening to some '90s alt-rock on iTunes Radio and weren't  interrupted with an ad for Ke$ha? I'm just saying. 

Future innovations 

If Apple allows Topsy to keep doing its thing, there may be even greater customization based on the mighty tweet stream in the near future. Just a few months ago, Topsy rolled out a new feature to track the origin of tweets. They use a combination of references like event names and landmarks to pinpoint where a tweet came from. So far, they can get the country right 95% of the time and the city right nearly 25% of the time. It's not an exact science--yet.

But if Topsy can continue to innovate under Apple's umbrella, we could see ads for local events and establishments within iTunes Radio ads and iAds on apps for iOS. We could see Apple product recommendations based on retailer proximity. 

The analytics possibilities are limitless.

Fool contributor Brenda Barron has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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