Twitter Buys Mixer Labs, Originator of Geo API and Townme

In this post on Screenwerk, Greg Sterling explains what's so very interesting about Twitter's purchase of Mixer Labs. There's little more to add except to suggest that we all think expansively about the possibility of delivering rich, local content in 140 characters or less. The holidays are approaching; as is a new year which, based on my informal poll of everyone I know, we expect to hold better things than 2009. Twitter, in both good and bad economic times, has stayed true to its role of fostering a wide open interchange among self-identified community of interests in innovative ways that integrate or link to the full spectrum of Internet- and Web-based features and functions.

Twitter's purchase of Mixer inspired Greg to wax rhapsodic about the prospects for location-awareness to bring about the dawn of a new era in mobile communications and services, including new mechanisms for advertising. I, personally, have mixed feelings. I share in celebrating the prospects for new services that leverage a service provider's awareness of my location, coupled with knowledge of my expressed interest and past explorations and informed guesses about my current intention. But I want that information to be used on my behalf first and then accommodate advertisers, according to my (implicit or explicit) instructions.

The combination of Twitter, with its low barriers to enroll and transparent mechanism around natural selection of the people, companies or (even) brands one might choose to follow. In one sense, the purchase of Mixer by Twitter was inevitable. Recent press reports claim that Twitter is profitable in its present state. Almost every gathering of analysts and practitioners improvising around the "real-time" Web has featured a mash up of a mapping service with pin-drops depicting places where people are originating Tweets. Pins indicated liveness. Multiple pins indicate hotness. The scroll of comments add editorial content ranging from informative to snarky and everything in between. By bringing the API inhouse, Twitter can exert a bit of control over the quality and quantity of new, geo-aware twitter mashups.

Tweets are user-generated information that the originators knowingly put out there in the public domain. Individuals post them voluntarily and they are permanently associated with their names (or Twitter handles). Associating Tweets with specific geographic locations creates a ready-made venue for venue owners to post fresh information. Bald promotions come to mind, but they would be a wasted opportunity. How about a restaurateur telling expressing pride in tonight's special or a baker mentioning that he or she made way too many brioche and has them on special.

Townme made an effort to be the repository for locally generated content, but it staid interesting only as long as it contains information that is fresh. The stream of the Tweets form the Twittersphere is certainly a rich font of info with the potential to populate such local repositories. But as Google's Vic Gundotra is quoted in the Screenwerk blog, this is "the beginning of the beginning." Pouring content from real-time feeds like Twitter into local catch-pools for all to see will be an interesting [social] science experiment. Whether it better serves advertisers and "brands" or mobile subscribers and shoppers is an open question. I have my fingers crossed that the Twitter/Mixer combo turns into a virtuous combination of both.