Twitter Acquires Geolocation Provider Mixer Labs

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-24

Twitter proved just how serious it is about location-based Web services by acquiring Mixer Labs for an undisclosed sum.

Mixer Labs makes GeoAPI, a service geared to help software developers build applications that use geolocation services, ideally to make the programs more useful and relevant for users.

GeoAPI services include a reverse geocoder, which take a latitude and longitude coordinate associated with a Twitter tweet and returns data about the closest intersection, and its associated neighborhood, city, state and country.

In Mixer Labs' example, GeoAPI takes the latitude "40.70395," and longitude "-73.79922" and transforms it to "Jamaica Plains, Queens, New York, USA."

GeoAPI leverages such data for about 16 million-plus businesses and locations. There is also location-enabled layers for Twitter and Flickr and an iPhone SDK to boost geolocation programming for the leading smartphone.

Twitter CEO Evan Williams announced the deal in a blog post Dec. 23:

"As of today, they're part of Twitter and will be working to combine the contextual relevance of location to tweets. We want to know What's happening?, and more precisely, Where is it happening? As a dramatic example, twittering "Earthquake!" alone is not as informative as "Earthquake!" coupled with your current location. When current location is added to tweets, new and valuable services emerge-everything from breaking news to finding friends or local businesses can be dramatically enhanced."

Williams added that Twitter will try to integrate the GeoAPI with the Twitter geotagging API to provide the developers who created Foursquare, Gowalla, Twidroid and other gelocation apps "other powerful new possibilities."

The post offered no other specific details about how GeoAPI might be integrated with Twitter's geotagging API, which Twitter rolled out broadly to programmers Nov. 19.

Twitter's geotagging API allows users to annotate their tweets with their exact location and provide more context about their surroundings. This API has been implemented on Twitter applications such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Twidroid and Seesmic Web.

Mixer Labs CEO Elad Gil was similarly vague in a blog post Dec. 23, noting: "We will continue to give new API keys for - however there may be some delays in getting keys over the holidays."

Geolocation services are a big part of the future of Web services, particularly those apps used via Web-enabled phones. At the least, Twitter users who agree to let Twitter follow them through the geotagged apps can derive more context from seeing where fellow users are tweeting from, adding an additional layer of credibility (or lack thereof) to a tweeter.

In another, more actionable scenario, users can walk around their urban surroundings and see Twitter tweets that show where a fellow Twitter user is relative to the position from which they tweeted. If the two are acquaintances, friends or colleagues, they can choose to meet up somewhere, thanks to geotagged tweets.

The gelocation services space is still very young, but the possibilities, if not endless, are vast.  

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