In another example of Twitter‘s growing contentious relationship with its partners, a judge ordered the company to continue providing its data directly to PeopleBrowsr.
PeopleBrowsr has used Twitter’s data for the past four years to create products like social media scoring platform Kred and Playground, a cloud-based social analytics platform. The company argued that being cut off from Twitter’s Firehose Analytics would cause irreparable harm to its business. A San Francisco Superior Court judge agreed yesterday and granted PeopleBrowsr a temporary restraining order. A hearing date for the preliminary injunction has been set for Jan. 8.
“We relied on Twitter’s promise of openness when we invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours of development time,” wrote Jodee Rich, Founder and CEO of PeopleBrowsr, on the company’s blog. “Long term supply is essential as this industry matures. We made this application to ensure full unrestricted access to the Firehose for our enterprise and government clients.”
Twitter responded with the opposition statement below. The crux of the company’s defense is that its business has matured from a handful of data customers including PeopleBrowsr to “hundreds” today. Twitter would prefer that PeopleBrowsr gets its data through three third parties — Topsy, Gnip and DataSift. Twitter used unusually blunt language to swat away PeopleBrowsr’s claim:
This is Contracts 101. Although PeopleBrowsr attempts to dress its case up as some sort of grand antitrust or interference case, it is not. The operative facts could not be simpler, or more dispositive. PeopleBrowsr and Twitter negotiated, at arm’s length, an integrated contract with a one year term, after which either party could terminate at will after giving 30 days’ notice. Twitter has exercised that contractual right. PeopleBrowsr attempts to ignore the plain language of the contract by imagining completely different contract, arguing that ‘Twitter contracted to provide an open ecosystem.’ … Nonsense.
The dispute comes after the social network has put a tighter leash on API partners to deliver a “consistent Twitter experience” across various platforms. So far, the biggest result of the change is the termination of Twitter’s LinkedIn partnership in June. The company is also considering dropping support for third-party image hosts, according to a September report in BuzzFeed.
Central to the disagreement is a question of philosophy. Some third parties believe they played a role in Twitter’s success and deserve payback, but also that Twitter is an “information utility” as co-founder Jack Dorsey dubbed it earlier this year. On the other hand, Twitter believes it should control its own brand experience and shouldn’t be burdened with the task of giving special treatment to some when its list of partners keeps expanding.
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