Update: TechCrunchIT interviews Gnip founders and Plaxo execs on the launch. Watch the video here.
MyBlogLog founder Eric Marcoullier sold his company to Yahoo in January 2007 for an estimated $10 million. He left Yahoo in July 2007 with the seed of a new idea germinating in his head – “Make data portability suck less.”
Today the details are being revealed and the service is launching. Gnip isn’t a consumer service. Rather, it’s designed to sit in between social networks and other web services that produce a lot of user content and data (like Digg, Delicious, Flickr, etc.) and data consumers (like Plaxo, SocialThing, MyBlogLog, etc.) with the express goal of reducing API load and making the services more efficient.
A close analogy is a blog ping server (see our overview here). Ping servers tell blog search engines like Technorati and Google Blog Search when a blog has been updated, so the search engines don’t have to constantly re-index sites just to see if new content has been posted. Instead, the blog tells the ping server when it updates, which tells the search engines to drop by and re-index. The creation of the first ping server, Weblogs.com, by Dave Winer resulted in orders of magnitude better efficiency for blog search engines.
The same thinking basically applies to Gnip. The idea is to gather simple information from social networks – just a username and the fact that they created new content (like writing a Twitter message, for example). Gnip then distributes that data to whoever wants it, and those downstream services can then access the core service’s API, with proper user authentication, and access the actual data (in our example, the actual Twitter message).
From a user’s perspective, the result is faster data updates across services and less downtime for services since their APIs won’t be hit as hard.
Digg, a launch partner of Gnip, clearly sees the benefit – they are giving unfettered access to Gnip to their API in the hope that some third party services will stop using it altogether and move to Gnip instead. Other launch partners include Plaxo, Delicious, Discus, Flickr, Get Satisfaction, MyBlogLog, Six Apart, Iminta, Lijit, Social Thing and Spokeo. Notably absent from the list of partners is Twitter, which may be the one service that needs something like Gnip the most.
Gnip worked with Pivotal Labs to develop the service.