“Everyone is trying to data mine Twitter for the best content. What very few people are doing (because it’s so resource-intensive) is to find out what that content actually is. We know what it is, and we follow everyone.”

Nick Halstead, Founder and CEO at Fav.or.it, was quietly authoritative as he described how he’s evolved the Tweetmeme site over the past few months – and he has every right to be. Whether a link in Twitter is to a blog, image, video or audio is a crucially important distinction, and the stark simplicity of the Tweetmeme home page contrasts with the massive computing power that lies behind getting that content up there.

20090219 m1r6a2a1ep14fwiyh4kx1wpa1j Tweetmeme: We follow everyone, we check links, we show popular links on Twitter, and we have an RT button for you.

Having a list of ‘popular links’ is fine up to a point, but knowing that you have an article, sound file or video as your destination (and being able to see the full, expanded URL before you click) adds an entirely new layer of value for the user – and the fact that one can select RSS feeds for each stream makes the Tweetmeme proposition even more attractive.

20090219 b5ne4wnwhhygn1iup8j8rf8uj Tweetmeme: We follow everyone, we check links, we show popular links on Twitter, and we have an RT button for you.

One of the most useful contextual elements is a one-line ‘tag cloud’ which gives the context surrounding the tweets that have linked to a particular resource, so that there is additional context that identifies words and hashtags associated when making these links.

20090219 r77p2aaugk9i432kxrhgkyaytk Tweetmeme: We follow everyone, we check links, we show popular links on Twitter, and we have an RT button for you.

In addition, being able to listen to a sound file with a simple click directly on the Tweetmeme page is extremely useful – and I find it nice to simply listen to something while checking other sections. And you can probably anticipate what’s planned next for the video and images sections…

This site is doing some Heavy Lifting
Because, in essence, Tweetmeme is following everyone on Twitter, and analysing every link using every link-shortening service, and updating every 5 minutes, it’s doing some very heavy lifting – the sort that similar services simply don’t do, because they can’t afford to.

For example, Tweetmeme had the tweets on its front page within minutes of the first tweet about the Hudson Air crash. As the individual who first tweeted the story had relatively few Twitter followers, it took a while for news to reach mainstream media, news and individuals with many followers – however, because of the retweeting pattern linking to that now iconic image, it very quickly showed up on Tweetmeme.

The Sun servers that power Tweetmeme’s heavy lifting are critical:- “I don’t think Tweetmeme could stand alone in the current climate as a business, but with the backing of Sun’s Startup Essentials programme, we are able to run it as a side-project alongside Fav.or.it” says Halstead, acknowledging the help with hardware, software, networking and PR opportunities, and making contacts with other businesses that Sun’s programme has offered.

Additional features added today
Tweetmeme has just today added the ability to aggregate images – images from popular stories now get aggregated and put in as thumbs next to stories. It has also added paged results – so you can look at the less popular stories – a lot of people felt that a ‘Top 10′ was not enough – so you could have, last time I checked, a top 53,300. There is also a Mobile version – http://m.tweetmeme.com now also works nicely on the iPhone.

API Documentation soon, Widgets from today
There is more good news in that Tweetmeme is in the process of documenting its API, so that you will soon be able to hook its power into your own blog or site to improve its currency and appeal for your visitors. Halstead expects the documentation to be completed and be available at Tweetmeme within the next week or so.

His team are also busy creating a number of buttons and widgets to allow for a simple drag-and drop making the interactive features and power of Tweetmeme available to your web site’s visitors – so you might be able to see how many Tweets, Diggs or Stumbles a story has had, and, of course interact to add to these resources from your readers main point of interest – your own content.

The Next Web is delighted to be first to showcase the Tweetmeme Button – which you can interact with here – and of course, you can also grab a copy for your own site. This button simply lets people retweet your blog entries. Get your own Button for your site here.