Topsy: who are they and why did Apple buy them?

Apple's $200 million acquisition of the Twitter anlaytics company has raised questions about the company's interest in social media

Apple’s recent purchase of Topsy Labs – a firm that specialises in analysing information from Twitter – has been described as a ‘move into social media’ for the company, but what exactly will the benefits be for Apple and how might it change things for their customers?

Who are Topsy and what do they do?

Topsy Labs was founded in 2007 and has access to the Twitter “fire-hose”: a full index of every Tweet since 2006 that offers more than 425 billion data points. Using Topsy’s software, companies can “instantly analyze any topic, term or hashtag across years of conversations on millions of web sites.”

The company was founded by Vipul Ved Prakash, a former Napster engineer, and Duncan Greatwood, who left American networking giant Cisco Systems to become CEO of the company. 

Topsy's services are mostly sold to brands and advertisers. The company turns the hard data of Twitter mentions, tweets and hashtags into ‘sentiment analysis’; reports that can show how consumers are reacting to a company’s new ad campaign or product.

The image below shows a simple query carried out via Topsy’s public service (click here to try it out yourself), tracking how many tweets have been made recently about Apple (the orange line) and two of its competitors, Samsung (blue) and Microsoft (green).

A simple query from Topsy showing a crude measure of three brands' relative popularity. How might Apple use this data?

It’s likely that Apple will use this sort of information to improve the appeal of their iAd platform, a service that allows companies to buy mobile ads across Apple’s range of devices.

iAd was first introduced in 2010 but has since stumbled, with Apple cutting the price of the minimum buy-in price for adverts from $1 million to $50, reflecting how the service has had to move from targeting big corporations to smaller companies.

With the recent introduction of iTunes radio, a Spotify-like streaming music service supported by adverts, the potential rewards for Apple from iAd continue to grow.

An advert for iAds, showing an interative iPhone ad for Land Rover Anything more exciting?

Topsy Labs' expertise could also search results offered by Siri. Since the move to iOS 7, Apple’s ‘digital personal assistant’ has been able to search Twitter directly, returning recent tweets when asked by customers what certain individuals are talking about. Topsy could improve these results and offer users greater insight into popular topics in any given area.

Wilder speculatiuon has suggested that the data from Twitter could even feed into the continually-rumoured, never-substantiated Apple TV. The use of Twitter as a second-screen experience for live TV, providing impromptu commentary and discussion, is becoming more and more popular; efficiently channelling and analysing this crowd-sourced content could make an Apple-streamed TV service attractive to both customers and advertisers.

Of course, these acquisitions are never just about the advertised services either. With Topsy Labs, Apple will be buying the expertise of a number of computer engineers practiced in handling and sorting massive data sets – these skills are immeasurably useful for any technology company and it's anyone's guess how Apple will benefit.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Service Delivery Manager (Product Manager, Test and Deployment)

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Senior C++ Developer – L...

    Head of Marketing - Pensions

    £65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

    Technical Support Analyst - London - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has bee...

    Day In a Page

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories