Twitter Acquires GeoAPI Maker Mixer Labs

Twitter announced this afternoon it has acquired Mixer Labs, a San Mateo, Calif.-based startup that recently launched GeoAPI, a reverse look-up service to help application makers get more information about where their users are. Basically, it offers developers a layer of geo so they don’t have to build it themselves.

As Twitter CEO Ev Williams explained in a blog post announcing the acquisition (but not its price tag):

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.

Mixer Labs, which was founded by former Google product managers and started out making a local wiki product called TownMe, had not disclosed any outside funding. We captured a video interview with Mixer Labs CEO Elad Gil just a couple of weeks ago about his take on the most interesting opportunities for location-aware applications: in his terms, broadcast, context, geo-tagging and search. Here’s our profile of the seven-person company based on that interview.

It’s nice to see that Mixer Labs says it’s still handing out API keys; unlike many other web startup acquirers, Twitter seems to be keeping its new service open to the public as-is, at least for now. GeoAPI has built a database of 16 million businesses and points of interest, and offers 20,000 queries per day for free, 100,000 more for $3 a day, promising super-speedy response times (sub-50 milliseconds).

The Mixer Labs acquisition will complement Twitter’s already launched geo-tagging API, which it has made available to developers to allow their users to specify their current tweeting coordinates. The yet-to-launch startup SimpleGeo is a direct GeoAPI competitor, and Google is building such tools as well. When we talked to Gil, he said one way GeoAPI would stand out is that it would allow companies to make geo-layers flexible and editable, rather than purely informational.