July 05, 2011

BackType Buy Latest Boost for Twitter Search, Analytics

This morning, news broke that Backtype, the SF-based, YCombinator founded startup that emerged in 2008 as a blog comments tracker and later pivoted a few times into a professional Twitter analytics company had "gone blue" and joined the mother ship, acquired by Twitter itself. The acquisition is another divider in the haves and have nots for Twitter developers - some who find themselves competing with the realtime short updates giant, and others who find themselves now sporting Twitter badges - TweetDeck included.

The addition brings some a small team of sharp engineers to the growing offices, and expands the company's focus on two pieces that need a lot of help - both search and analytics, though it's most likely the BackType team will be focused on the latter.

Twitter Follower Activity on BackTweets Pro Including Ups and Downs

The company's initial phase, as a comment tracker which let you follow people's engagement on blogs around the Web, was well chronicled here. They were actually listed as the #3 overall new Web service of 2008, and I aggressively predicted they were going to be acquired by the second half of 2009. I even listed Twitter as one of the potential buyers, although my prediction ended up being two years off.

Search Results for "Caylee" Spiking Earlier Today With Influencers, Other Data

After that initial move didn't get the company the traction and/or revenue they hoped, they drafted on the sails of fast-growing Twitter and rebooted with their BackTweets product. In May of this year, they upped the ante with BackTweets Pro, offering detailed analytics for search and user statistics. This appears to have finally been the product offering that gained Twitter's attention. While Twitter has gained a lot in the last few years in stability and UX, the core offerings of the service have been fairly static. Users have had to go to other services to watch individual statistics and see trends on keywords for anything more than a few days. It's surely not a matter of not having the resources or the interest, but it seems to have played a lower priority - something which may change following today's news.

Longtime Twitter watchers also remember 2008 was the time of another acquisition, when they acquired Summize, the basis for today's Twitter search engine, much maligned, but often used. What Twitter has done is learned what pieces of the developer community they can take out like a sniper, and which ones they'd rather not do themselves. Search has never seemed their strength, and we haven't seen many words on making it more fully-featured in a very long time - outside of a lapsed agreement with Google and ongoing relationship with Bing. Considering users aren't making too much noise about it, they've either accepted these shortcomings as long-term realities, or they just don't care. The BackType guys know that companies care about the way their brands are being mentioned or followed, and they just may get their fix from Twitter itself when the products resurface.