Twitter Acquires Whetlab To Improve Its Services

By | June 18, 2015

On Wednesday, Twitter announces the acquisition of Whetlab, a startup focused on machine learning technology. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Announcement in Whetlab's website

Announcement in Whetlab’s website

Cambridge-based startup Whetlab is less than a year old but its technology of making the machine learning faster and better has attracted the interest of Twitter, a giant social media site. The startup was developing A.I-like technologies at Harvard, Toronto and Sherbrooke University that would simplify the machine learning process for the companies to implement. It had been designed to get the company’s internal systems off the ground without any manual interference and hence, more quickly than before. It could reduce the time from months to days to train a new machine learning system.

Though the reason behind this acquisition of Twitter is not very evident or clear, the company claims that Whetlab’s technology will be used as an internal service to speed up Twitter’s current machine learning efforts. On Whetlab’s website, it has been stated, “Twitter is the platform for open communication on the Internet and we beleive that Whetlab’s technology can have a huge and positive impact through it.” Neither of the companies gave out much clear details on how Whetlab will help Twitter.

Twitter was apparently also interested in the five-member team of Whetlab who would be joining the company after the acquisition. The small team comprises of PhD holders that includes Ryan Adams, assistant professor of computer science at Harvard University, and Hugu Larochelle, an assistant professor at the Universite de Sherbrooke.

Following the acquisition, Whetlab will be shutting down its operations from July 15. However, the current users can still download the data from their earlier experiments. It is available via the website as raw JSON, as well as via Whetlab’s command-line utility in either JSON or tab-separated format (TSV).

It is not all that surprising to see the Twitter’s interest on machine learning technology as it has already acquired Madbits of similar field last July. The micro blogging company plans to make use of the startup to get to know more about the users behavior of how, when and what they tweet. Using it, Twitter could improve how it fights abuse and spam, re-prioritize new features for users and businesses, tweak how it serves ads, and in general decide how best to use engineering resources. However, the company is not yet sharing any information about how the technology, more specifically, will be put to use.