Business

Share button madness: Real-time search startup Topsy launches one of its own

Real-time search startup Topsy launched its own variation on the retweet button today to compete with Tweetmeme’s leading version.

It’s important because the retweet button was one of the distinguishing features that allowed Tweetmeme to break out from the pack of real-time search startups that launched earlier this year. It gave the U.K.-based startup broad exposure and traffic with north of 50 million retweet button impressions a month. Topsy, which is much better-funded, logged in about 150,000 uniques in September to Tweetmeme’s 770,000 thousand, according to Compete.

So why consider switching to Topsy? 1) Topsy archives search results for longer so they don’t get lost. 2) You get bragging rights if you’re in the Top 100, one thousand or five thousand links among “influential people” on Twitter. Topsy judges influence based on your ratio of followers to how many accounts you follow, plus how often you’re retweeted among other factors.

Minuses: Can this get anymore unwieldy or cluttered-looking? When combined with all the other comment and share buttons, it’s pretty crazy looking (see above in a screenshot from TechCrunch). It would be nice if someone came up with a design that aggregated tweets and Facebook shares in place of the homely-looking arrangement above.

Other minuses: “Influence” is subjective and constantly changing — what’s an “influential” person on Twitter, and why not just rank comments by pure retweet counts like Tweetmeme?

Twitter, for one, created a highly uneven playing field when it launched a Suggested Users List — which is a staff recommendations list for who to follow. It propelled unknowns like Felicia Day well past 1 million followers, while others had to fight for an audience the old-fashioned way. Those initial advantages have become amplified over time because Twitter accounts seem to have a power-law distribution for followers, just like sites on the web.

The standard ego comparison has also changed. It used to be how many followers you had. Then it became how many followers you had divided by how many accounts you follow. Now, after Twitter rolled out the lists features, it’s how many lists you’re on.

In addition to its retweet button, Topsy is also pursuing a distribution strategy like OneRiot and Collecta. It’s releasing an application programming interface called Otter that lets other developers build applications off Topsy’s index. With the conventional search market saturated, it’s hard to fight for mindshare as another destination site, so many real-time startups are hoping their results can be baked into several places across the web.


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