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The Wall Street Journal reports Apple just bought Topsy, a social media analytics company, instantly giving it a world of social power. The only trouble is, no one really knows what they're going to do with it. 

The WSJ's Daisuke Wakabayashi and Douglas MacMillan report Apple recently purchased Topsy Labs Inc., a social analytics firm, for more than $200 million. Apple has struggled to adapt socially — its iTunes Ping service shut down last year to no mourning. The biggest move Apple made was integrating Facebook and Twitter into its iOS platform. And so, with no previous indication Apple would try and play socially,  the question becomes, "Why Topsy — and why now?" 

What Apple gets with Topsy is recorded history. "So, basically, Apple just bought Twitter's entire history. Without buying Twitter," veteran social executive Matthew Knell explained on, where else, Twitter. Every user, every tweet, every favorite, every trending topic — Topsy has it all stored away, and then repackages the information to sell to brands. "The company is one of a handful of Twitter's partners who have access to the so-called 'firehose'—the full stream of all tweets posted to the service," the Journal explains. 

Not only can Apple harness this information for their own gains — perhaps in iTunes or the App Store — but they can still sell the data to other companies. As The Verge points out, even Twitter goes to Topsy for data analysis: "... in the past [Twitter] even ended up relying on Topsy's data to parse through the most buzzed about nominees for the 2013 Oscars and capture the mood of the 2012 presidential election." Some wonder how Apple managed to keep the terms of Topsy's deal with Twitter in place, but that's something to worry about for another day. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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