(Twitch)
(Twitch)

Before the secretive Amazon was buying it for almost $1 billion, Twitch was part of a merry band of indie social networks prepared to open its doors to researchers.

The video streaming and gaming community with more than 50 million users was prepared to join Stack Exchange, Fark, imgur and Reddit in the Digital Ecologies Research Partnership (Derp, for short).

The goal is to give social science and data researchers unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the workings of their social spaces. DERP, researchers told me last week, is a step toward a fuller, more comprehensive understanding of the way people use the Web to connect, and the companies that help keep people connected.

Facebook and Twitter, because of their size and ubiquity, are the focus of plenty of research already (though what data researchers see is largely still controlled by the companies themselves). These other boutique spaces, each catering to a unique community, are comparatively less tapped.

The openness that DERP suggests is in sharp contrast to Amazon’s hallmark secrecy. The online retailer is famous for its closed-doors attitude towards the public and the press. Whether Twitch will continue to be involved with DERP and allow scholars access to its vibrant community remains to be seen.

Image via Twitch

Update: This post was updated to include confirmation of Amazon’s purchase.

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