Twitter has announced the acquisition of Mixer Labs the creators of GeoAPI. GeoAPI is a location services platform. They have been collecting data (like Flickr, Foursquare, YouTube, Weatherbug and of course Twitter) and made it query-able via their API. For any location you could reverse geocode it and for any place you can get the lat/long. Finally, the cloud service also allowed for applications to create objects and annotations.
Simply put this drives home the importance that Twitter puts on location. The platform team is headed by Ryan Sarver, a recruit from Skyhook Wireless (the company behind your iPhone’s wifi location). The company was founded by Xooglers. I am sure that helped.
First and foremost, it will help with Twitter’s current GeoTagging API. The new API accepts a location with each tweet. Twitter already has Trending Topics and we’ve always pictured them having Trending Topics via geography. Now they will be better prepared to add more context with the addition of these other data sources. Twitter will also be gaining a scalable geoplatform to that can support ad hoc queries.
Second, does this herald Twitter’s moves into being a location provider? At Sarver’s previous company they had a location-brokering service called MyLoki that never gained ubiquity. Twitter has the opportunity to become a major location broker. Twitter currently has a very simple on/off switch for location. To become a full-fledged consumer location service (like Latitude or Fire Eagle) they will need to build in more controls.
Finally, does this herald a new services business model for Twitter? GeoAPI was a cloud service aimed at developers. The business model is to charge per X thousand of queries per day. So far their product pages are still online and they are listed as “All your location needs in one API. A service from Twitter” Twitter charges for access to the firehose and they already have 50,000 applications using their API. Will this become an additional service that those developers can pay for?
This sets us up for a very interesting year in locations services. Google Latitude is due to release a full-fledged API (as opposed to their sneaky one). Facebook may actually wake-up to the potential of location services. I can’t picture Apple not wanting to take advantage of all those location-aware iPhones with a new MobileMe service. Will these services work together? Location doesn’t have to be zero-sum game and I’ll put my money on the players who don’t treat it as such.