Thursday, May 21, 2009

Real Time Search: Twitter Is Not Doing It

Real time search would be if I took my website public right now, and it would show up in your search results right now, if I put out a blog post right now, it would show up in your search results right now. That would be real time search.

But that is not what Twitter does. What Twitter does is this. If you created a website two years ago, but I only discovered it today, and it moved me enough that I tweeted a link to it, and once my tweet has been published, then my tweet would show up for someone doing a search on the key terms in my tweet if my tweet is not too old already. If I am 20 seconds too late, my tweet is not going to show up in Twitter's so-called real time search. And the Twitter search engine is really bad at digging into the Twitter archives, so if my tweet on that hot webpage from two years ago is not going to show up in the first 20 seconds, that tweet is pretty much buried.

Even by its own paradigm - as in, they don't claim to be indexing webpages created in real time - Twitter is not really doing real time search.
  • The online population is not representative of the global population.
  • The Twitter millions are not representative of the online population.
  • There are no guidelines to tweets. They can be about links, they need not be about links. They need not be about links to fresh websites, blog posts.
Twitter is useful, and I am a fan and an avid user. But the Twitter way of exploring the web is niche, it is you saying show me what others are seeing and saying right now. I guess that fits some people's definition of real time search, not mine though.

My blog posts get indexed by Google not in real time, but it does not take them long at all. I have not conducted experiments, but I doubt it is more than an hour. Maybe it is less than 30 minutes, less maybe, I don't know. It might even be minutes. If it is minutes, that is fast enough for me. That is real time search right there.

Of all the companies in the game - Google, Twitter, Wolfram Alpha, Yahoo, Microsoft - the one most likely to deliver real time search - my definition - is Google, because they have the most sophisticated algorithms, they have the largest database of web content, they focus on search like a laser beam like no company does.

So I am not counting the big dog out yet, although I am keenly interested in niche developments like Twitter and Wolfram Alpha, and I think it is good for the consumer that Yahoo and Microsoft harbor ambitions of competing with Google. I like the idea.

Distributed Search
Wolfram Apha Is Cool
Google Falling Behind Twitter?
Taking The Number 2 Spot On Google Search For Donut Android
Google Is Working On Search
Stream 2.0: The Next Big Thing?
Microfinance, Nanotech, Biotech, Software/Hardware/Connectivity
David Gelernter: Manifesto
Twitter Is Not Micro
Cupcake: Android 1.5
Skype: Hub

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