Selling Your Tweets to the Enemy

Tech bloggers are in a tizzy over the prospect of tech giants Google or Microsoft getting real-time access to the thoughts of Twitterers, but Valleywag has learned that cash-hungry Twitter is already selling access to its "firehose" of data.

Various startups, we're told, have already been able to buy access (for thousands of dollars, not the millions Google or Microsoft would have to pay) to tweets. Twitter is in "advanced talks" with both those companies to sell access to a full feed of tweet data for use in the companies' search engines, according to Kara Swisher at All Things D. Such a feed would presumably include all new tweets as they are posted along with public data on favorites and who is following whom.

Thought they haven't widely publicized the practice, Twitter is already in the business of selling access to its "firehose" of public data, according to a source close to one customer of the service. Twitter typically charges between $1,500 and $3,000 per month for such access, sometimes for a limited subset, this person said.

Then again, a typical customer until now has been a relatively small startup company with little revenue, utterly dependent on the Twitter ecosystem. Google and Microsoft are more fearsome competitors, with much deeper pockets. Google CEO Eric Schmidt just this past March called Twitter a "poor man's email system," and his company recently added real-time features to its GMail product, making it more Twitter like.

Of course, working with tech behemoths has its benefits, starting with cold hard cash. Swisher said deals on the table include payments of "several million dollars to Twitter." The company could also try and negotiate a cut of the advertising sales accompanying its results.

But the biggest benefit would be to reignite Twitter's growth, which appeared to stagnate over the summer. A company with a $1 billion valuation and little revenue lives and dies by its future promise. And a surge of search engine traffic could make that future look significantly brighter. Assuming, that is, that there's anything worth finding in the 140-character mental ejaculations of narcissists, celebrities and desk jockeys.

(Pic: Twitter co-founder Evan Williams with Google co-founder Larry Page, Williams' former boss, at industry event Foo Camp in 2007. By Scott Beale.)