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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

    £34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Developer - WinForms, C#

    £280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

    Java Developer

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform