steve gillmor – Stay N Alive

Track is Back! Steve Gillmor Rejoices

Twitter TrackerOne of the major reasons I joined Twitter over a year ago was the ability to easily subscribe to Tweets, based on search terms I sent over my cell phone or IM client.  Due to scaling issues and load on Twitter as they grew, Twitter removed that ability shortly after Scoble and I visited them last year.  Twitter called it “Track”.

It was simple functionality.  I send “track keyword” to 40404 on my mobile phone, and immediately any Tweet with that keyword would be sent straight to my mobile phone (or IM client if I had it set correctly in my preferences).  It was very useful.  For instance, if I wanted to know every happening at the time going on at Sundance here in Utah, I would simply “track sundance” and all those Tweets would be delivered to me, as they happened.  I could do the same with my name, my brand, or my favorite technologies.

Twitter may have removed that functionality last year, but just over a week ago, they finally released API methods to make the real-time searching of keywords and search terms available again via their limited streaming APIs available in Alpha right now.  The API method is conveniently called “track”.  On June 12, John Kalucki, developer behind the real-time streaming APIs Twitter is now providing developers described it on the Twitter developers mailing list as such:

“The /track resource allows searching the Firehose stream for a list of keywords. This resource may be a useful adjunct to the Twitter Search API. While the predicates are less powerful than the SearchAPI, results are streamed continuously and with low-latency. For common keywords, a more complete set of results can be delivered than is possible by polling the Search API. Consult the Streaming API documentation for limits and details:”

Put in simple terms, developers now have access to take a list of keywords for a specific Twitter user, and have Twitter deliver any Tweet that meets those search terms in real-time back to the developer’s app.  That means Push notifications via iPhone applications on the new iPhone 3.0 firmware are now possible, any company utilizing SMS can easily deliver terms via SMS again, and more.

Because the Streaming APIs are in limited Alpha, only certain developers will be allowed access, but I fully expect to see this integrated in the near future.  I expect to see this especially as the code solidifies and moves out of Alpha, into apps such as TweetDeck, Tweetie, and Seesmic Desktop.  Twitter users everywhere can rejoice, as their most requested and most favorite feature taken from Twitter has just been found.

Twitter Tracker logo courtesy NBC Tonight Show.