I’ve read lots of commentary on the Topsy purchase by Apple. I like TechCrunch‘s pointer to Topsy’s patents as just part of the puzzle. What nobody seems to be mentioning is that this is a smart and relatively cheap way for Apple to buy a huge tweet store that they can display on their own sites and apps. It isn’t just the archive of tweets that matters. Topsy has the infrastructure in place to manage the Twitter firehose of all tweets. The Topsy team can build other datamining engines on top of it that can then deliver tweets for display. That is an end-to-end solution that anyone doing Social TV in a big way must have.
The answer is in the Topsy Terms of Service:
As between you and Topsy, all Content, is the exclusive property of Topsy or its content suppliers and is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. As between you and Topsy, the compilation (meaning the collection, arrangement, and assembly) of all Content is the exclusive property of Topsy and is also protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. The Content may be used as a resource. Any other use, including the reproduction, modification, distribution, transmission, republication, display, or performance, of the Content is strictly prohibited.
If you buy Twitter data from Topsy, Gnip, or any other data reseller, you have the right to analyze all you want, but you can’t display the tweets on your own site. That is considered resyndication or republication by Twitter and is explicitly forbidden. The answer is to just buy Topsy. As the new owner of the Twitter database collected from Twitter, Apple is now allowed to display tweets in its other products. I can think of one prime application for all these tweets, Social TV. I expect that to be the punchline of most acquisitions in the Twitter space over the next year.