Gaddafi Shows Why Google is Failing Its Mission in Search

Don't expect Twitter-based realtime search anytime soon

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Gaddafi Shows Why Google is Failing Its Mission in Search
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As you may recall, Google used to have a realtime search feature. When some topic was hot at any given time, and you did just a plain Google search on that topic, Google would show realtime results mixed right in with the regular results, and you can actually see them rolling in in realtime. It was quite useful in many cases, particularly in breaking news situations. Even when it didn’t automatically show up in the search results it was available as an option from the left panel. It was always a useful tool to see what people were saying about anything during the moment.

Do you miss Google’s realtime search feature? Let us know in the comments. Find this topic interesting? Why not share this article on StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+?

The absence of realtime search is glaringly evident on a day like today. This morning, everyone was scrambling to find out the latest on Muammar Gaddafi. As of the time of this writing, the best Google could do on search results, in terms of timeliness, was a news story from about a half hour ago. That may or may not be the best result, but it doesn’t help me for finding the very latest, especially in a situation like this where people are frequently tweeting from Tripoli.

No, in this case, Google is no doubt driving a lot of people to Twitter Search, simply because they’re not meeting the demand. It seems like a fundamental problem for Google when it is not meeting a search-related demand, given that Google is at its core, still a search company. It’s mission is “to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Well, realtime information is generally useful when it is accessible in real time.

All Twitter is reporting that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo indicated we should not expect Twitter and Google to come to an agreement to renew their deal any time soon.

That said, Google has indicated in the past that it would bring realtime search back, using data from other sources, including Google+. It had other sources before, but it was clear that Twitter dominated the results. This point was made even clearer when they just removed the feature entirely after losing Twitter data. Apparently, it just wasn’t even good enough to offer without Twitter.

So now, they want Google+ updates to replace it. I’m not so sure if there’s enough material there, however. Larry Page announced during the company’s earnings call last week that Google+ surpassed 40 million members, but how many of them are posting public updates as often as Twitter users tweet? One key obstacle here is that Google+ was designed to offer users the maximum amount of control when sharing updates. This Circles method of sharing practically encourages people not to share data publicly, so that’s less data for the realtime search engines, although I could see Google including results from people in your Circles that were shared with you. But I don’t know if that’s enough to make a huge difference.

One thing, in terms of data from other sources, that could work to Google’s advantage, is the subscribe feature recently launched by Facebook. Facebook users can now let people subscribe to their profiles without having to actually be friends with them. This no doubt encouraged a lot of people to share more stuff publicly, knowing that people might want to subscribe to their posts, as if they were following them on Twitter. Again, though, I don’t know if there is enough here to make a huge difference, because Facebook and Twitter are just different in the way most people share info.

Twitter is public by default. It’s just a better source of public realtime data that is unrivaled at this point. That’s just how it is. Without Twitter, Google’s realtime search will never be as good as it could be with it. Unless people stop using Twitter, and it doesn’t look like that will be happening anytime soon.

Just how important is realtime search? Well, that depends on the user, but as I said, this whole Gaddafi thing is a prime example of when its absence is incredibly obvious. On the anniversary of 9/11, Danny Sullivan reminded us of how awful it was trying to find the latest info about the attacks when they happened. Imagine how much easier that would have been in the realtime search era.

Realtime search is clearly important enough for other companies to continue to try and improve upon it. Just in the last week or two, we’ve seen new offerings from Bitly, Topsy, and even Google+ itself.

While each of these options may have be useful, and can probably co-exist with one another, I think most people that think about searching for what’s happening right now, think about Twitter. In fact, if you go to Twitter’s search page, it actually says, “See what’s happening right now.”

Without the ability to search “what’s happening right now,” Google has at least one weakness in search, and is simply not a complete search engine.

What do you think? Does Google need to get Twitter data back for realtime search? How important is realtime search to you? Let us know in the comments.

Gaddafi Shows Why Google is Failing Its Mission in Search
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  • Sean

    Much agreed. Found this article after trying to use the realtime feature, which apparently is no more.

  • Jenny

    I agree with you Chris, Google does not want to promote Twitter bc they hope to kill it and G+ will never catch up.

    Who’s that slick person int he video? Looks like one of those magician scamsters

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      That would be Google’s Vic Gundotra.

  • http://www.davidwegwartphotography.com David Wegwart

    I like to swap to Yahoo for this very reason. They have a constant stream of updated news info, right at the top of the page.

    C’mon Google.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I’m not seeing any better results at Yahoo. I see no realtime results in a Yahoo.com search.

  • http://n/a Lisa

    I would not put blame on Google at all, for the specific reasons that Ghadafi’s death may, in fact be a deception. Why not think “outside of the box”, and await for the confirmation of his death, in which Google will most definitely post, once his death is confirmed. Until our own men that protect this country, confirm his death, then I would not worry about Google.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Gaddafi is jut an example, the same argument applies to anything else in the news. It’s not about fact checking. It’s about getting the latest in what people are saying.

    • moonlight

      Gadhaffi is D E A D. Saw pictures and videos of it on the internet and our own local news actually showed his DEAD face up close and personal. The image was horrifying, but a deception it is NOT!

  • http://n/a Lisa

    I actually use Bing.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I’m not seeing any better results there, unless I go specifically to Bing social search. They should integrate it into the regular results.

  • http://www.absolutewebworks.com/ Absolute Webworks

    There used to be a search engine company called leapfish that tried to offer real time search. What they were actually doing was using twitter. I found it really useful when trying to keep score during a pay per view event that I did not pay for. The results would be posted within minutes.

  • http://www.bestfreewoodworkingplans.com Jordash

    I personally don’t care about what is happening write now on twitter and all that jazz. The internet doesn’t need more spam content and that is what you get with Twitter and “social search”. Do you really want to get your news from a 13 year old kid who is making a post about something to get traffic or a follow? Most people don’t, but then again that is what you are asking for.

    As far as news results… Google has it as the beginning of every search I type. Having the automatic update rolling was a feature that was overly spammed by spam sites. They constantly created pages and topics on “the in thing” and then got their little 1 second of glory clicks from google then made another one. I never found it useful nor did I ever find any quality search results from it. The In The News at least gives me a site where if there content is wrong I can at least hold someone responsible for it.

    I’ve tried using bing search, but after dozens of horrific results I gave up on it and went back to google. Bing claims to be a decision engine, yet the decision it makes is to give you search overload just like every other search engine, they just don’t do nearly as good of a job of it.

  • Pete Schliebner

    If real-time search results means most of the results will come from Twitter, then I say good riddance. There simply is no accountability for anything anyone posts on Twitter. Therefore most of the results will be rumors, nonsense, personal opinions, and more nonsense. Enough of the instant gratification, fast-food attitude already. Twitter is for twits. Real business people with real businesses don’t need it, don’t use it, and recognize that it is mostly ego driven drivel.

  • geoio

    I don’t think Google has to offer this function. If you are looking for real-time search, go somewhere else.

  • http://www.lawyer-advertising-blog.com Phil

    Unfortunately, Google is no longer the useful Google of yesterday. Google is now focusing on local results in an effort to replace yellow page sites. Even Google can’t do everything and by diverting attention to local search, the rest of their site is suffering.

    I’ve written several comments for a long time since they first started focusing on local search. I think it is a big mistake and is essentially a brand change. It certainly is a mistake with regards to myself because I no longer find Google as useful as I used to. When I use Google, I am researching something and I am not interested in finding local businesses. If I wanted to do that, I would use a yellow page site.

  • http://www.sleeping-gypsy.com Leslie Yetter

    I SO agree with your assessment of Google real time search. Google is a disappointment in this area, sad to say. Google search falls shour in other ways that I won’t go into here. Let’s just say, if I want to find out more about Guatemala, when it comes up in BizRate or Target search results as “Buy your Guatemala here!” or “Get the best deal on Guatemala today!” it makes me groan in pain. While their new algorithm is an improvement, it still has a loooong way to go…

    Yes, I miss real time Google search results…

  • Greg

    Real time searches across all domains would require a staggering amount of computing power and for what? To be able to find the latest posting of a cities minutes? The way yahoo kept posting clinton getting off a plane (no news … just a feed) maybe there is the demand .. right up there with reality TV where you can waste hours watching someone else’s life.
    Though I understand the appeal most real time systems have some method of determining priority and it is bad enough that online book stores determine what you can read based on sales versus content.
    Twitter provides the real time and specialty sites certainly can pick up the slack. Does google have to do everything .. I wouldn’t want it to and if I was looking at their budget I can’t see the cost justification.
    Sorry but since most of the searches repeat tons of crap due to all sorts of useless services trying to get hits I would rather have google find away to remove content from searching before wasting time on pleasing someones lust to see death, destruction and misery in real time.
    If the US news agencies ever go back to actually being news agencies versus entertainment organizations maybe you would simply be able to go to them.
    Another way to look at it is this – imagine the amount of people you could help in the war torn countries you just wanted to google a story about by giving up real time and having the money saved go to clean water, job creation etc.

    All the best.

  • http://www.alda-architects.co.uk Alan

    Horses for courses perhaps? Jabberer and noise now or melody slightly later. Not everyone wants instant access to what people are saying all the time.

    That said I do get the feeling that Google is becoming complacent.

  • Joe

    You are absolutly correct, when I wanted to find out what was happening with the Dan Wheldon crash, I spent my time on Twitter because Google had nothing for some time. Real time is Twitter!

  • http://www.essexportal.co.uk/ Jon

    Why the fuss? If you have Internet you have access to all the news sites – pick one and watch it. I was watching the BBC who had reporters on the scene and even they did not know for sure what was happening. Why fill the search results up with false information?

  • http://www.wickedclubwear.com marcie

    Ive noticed that Google has focused so much on website content that now it seems that when you search for things all you get are blogs and such instead of the companies that you hope to find, Im not surprised they are going down hill as a result, I think they hoped to bring better content to users but instead have forced all of us website owners to make nonsense blogs to help our rankings and If Im looking for sexy red shoes, I dont want to find a story or blog about them I want to find the product!, : )

  • http://DownHomeBasics.com/Home AJ Tyne

    I’m just waiting for some smart person/company with the right vision to come along like Google did way back when, and make search work better. Goggle just doesn’t work anymore, and sadly, its competitors (Bing, Yahoo!) are no better. Panda was the last straw for me, as a searcher! They made it so much harder for me to ever find what I’m looking for — and so much easier to find garbage of the kind they were supposedly getting rid of. I am still with Google, but only because there is nothing else. The problem you’re reporting today was a problem with the East Coast earthquake, the hurricane, and more. Google has bogged itself down in so many rules and attempts to outsmart the whole world with its algorithms, it’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t even mind the lack of real time news near as much if I could just get real news/research/entertainment/whatever when I want it. Google pays too much attention to pundits and not enough attention to the everyday person. Pundits and such make snide remarks all the time about sites like eHow or Hubpages being content farms. Do regular people? Not that I’ve ever heard. Before I knew what sites were good for which topic, and I could get good results on the first page, and choose the site that I knew would be best for my needs at that time (and honestly, eHow is TOPS for fast, easy to understand info/instructions on any topic. Sure there is some garbage on the site, as on all sites, but if I had a question and needed a fast answer: eHow or Wikipedia, depending on the info I needed. If I was doing research for some project, I could easily find great info in the .edu/.gov searches. After panda, I have to struggle a lot to find what I need. Most often, I get a blog that may be very nice but is NOT what I need at the time because it is just about someone’s personal opinion — interesting reading, but not what I need when I am looking for something specific. Well I’m starting to ramble, but, yeah, I’m mad at google. I have the vision; too bad I’m lost on the technical end and the money! ;)

    • http://DownHomeBasics.com/Home AJ Tyne

      Meant to say I can’t even count on the .edu/.gov searches anymore. I’m looking for studies, journal entries, or university info for consumers. I get some obscure thesis from 20 years ago, or a university’s detailed account of founding faculty, building sites, and history.

      • moonlight

        That’s my complaint as well. I use other engines but for a quickie I search Google and get results from last year or further back. I can’t find anything up-to-date in G’s search results.

        The powers that be at G have screwed with it so much it isn’t even a search engine any more. It’s a rag tag trash junk engine that is beginning to circle the drain.

        FINALLY, people are getting good and fed up. The internet bully is dying a slow and painful death. GOOD!!!

        When I want the latest news I can always count on Newsmax.com. They had a story up about the latest Republican debate the other night in less than 5 minutes after it was over.

  • Tim

    I haven’t missed real-time results. I don’t want to know what is being tweeted from Tripoli on a day like today, because I will get the noise mixed in with useful news.

    I use news.google.com, leave the page up, and check on it when I have time. It updates itself often enough.

    On some topics I am going to also search the tweets. For example news on Occupy I suspect is filtered so badly it is mangled into uselessness. I am more interested in what someone on the street tweets than I am in how a CBS reporter presents it.

  • http://www.CaptainCyberzone.com CaptainCyberzone

    What I miss is Truth, Honesty and Morality!

  • John

    I got a couple of paragraphs in and thought what are you talking about and NO I do not want the latest “instant” claim for idiot of the year to color my results – must be a really slow web week?

  • http://ripsychotherapy.com Mike A.

    Wow. That was a very close to real time blog. You point out a valid hole in Google’s results. And I’m also on board with AJ Tyne’s comment: “Goggle just doesn’t work anymore, and sadly, its competitors (Bing, Yahoo!) are no better.”

  • abc

    I would prefer to wait half an hour and get solid info, than to get a page full of links to rumous and speculation immediately.

  • http://www.torstenq.de Torsten

    I don´t really miss the realtime news in the Google search results. It made the Serps look like mess. If I need news I go to Google´s news page or other news sites. I think search engine results should bring up established facts instead of “hot news”.

  • http://www.seonorthamerica.com Tom Aikins

    I watched all of 9/11 on TV. No need for any search. Gaddafi? He’s dead. What else do you need to know? How did we ever survive before the internet? I love it but it’s not my whole life.

  • http://gamingsale.net/ GiveSuccess

    I am done w/google! I am breaking my google crack habbit and going cold turkey. I spent so many hours trying to “fix” my sites.I have about 30 so it is becoming a full time job just cleaning up w/all the panda poo. I am ditching gmail, adsense, webmaster tools, stats…EVERYTHING google is out the door! I hope they get raped in court!

  • http://www.cnx-software.com/ SymS

    Of course, I miss real-time search in Google. It was very useful during events like earthquakes or other breaking news.

  • http://www.mautau.net mautau

    yes that right im just posting in 1 minute my blog have got alot of visitor just use kadafi tewas or gaddafi-death keyword.. nice commet you can check my blog here http://instaforex-id.com/

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B

    More than real-time, I miss Google’s old “sort by date” and “sort by relevance” options. (Or, am I just missing how to do it? BTW I mean real sort by, not just picking pages updated since yadda.) Also, is there a simple way (or at all) to search case-sensitive? To me it is shocking not to (as with, no simple way to just “print list of directory files with dates, size, ….” in MS operating systems as is.)

    “Fine minds make fine distinctions.”

  • http://DesignWise.net DesignWise

    Seems to be a symptom of the times, Google has become so much about money-making that they have lost sight of what it is that they are expected to provide. The Panda “upgrade” made Google search irrelevant in my case, knocking out quite many of the unique grassroots news sources in place of a dull parade of mainstream corporate media.

  • http://www.furpetsonly.com R. B. Jeffrey

    People who know how to think have no use for some one else giving out information which is essentially non useful. It is like reading the editorial page and not believing that there is bias written into it.

  • http://www.javascriptsandmore.com JavaScript’s and More

    Real-time search is essential in times like this to find out the latest. Maybe Google+ should make their post’s public by default. In order to compete with Twitter, Google+ needs to implement some more advanced posting tools!

  • Paul Bourgeois

    I think most of the “news” on Twitter would be, as the name implies, unverified twittering with little news content. What kind of content can a person convey over a phone keyboard and if they are busy texting are they really paying attention? Of course, if the ungrammatical splurts of text are current, then why not?

  • http://www.autopten.com/ John Mc Cheap

    Great article Chris and you are right, the problem of Google is they want to do also what everybody is doing, they want to copy the good ideas from other companies, they want to show to the world they can also do it and do it better, but well, they have failed a lot, they should respect the good ideas are other working on and focus in their search engine. The Google business is the information search, the general information, not the latest news in live mode, that’s the Twitter business.

  • Jerald Franklin Archer

    That “mad scramble” for news only seemed to only really produce more rumors and misinformation than anything. The facts and the duty to report them seem to be secondary to just getting an article out there, which is bad journalism. Bad journalism produces ill-informed people, which in turn only then produces rumours which can, in some instances, and has been proven by history, prove to produce very bad results in all other areas. Even with our so-called “advanced” technology, we still (and always will have) problems as long a there is a human element involved.

    I have never found the social networks a reliable source of newsworthy information in themselves and have constantly found errors in Yahoo and API so many times, it make me wonder and concerns me deeply. CNN is even less to be relied upon for any breaking news developments and seem only to dramatize rather than really present facts themselves. No good journalist would ever consider even looking at any “social yak site” to get any information whatsoever, and use it professionally. Intelligent people want real news, not public noise.

    The (major) search engines seem useless for supercurrent information it would seem. This incident today proved an interesting experiment in that theory and the results seem to point to simply waiting out the storm, and then going from there.

    IN my experiences, BBC NEWS has always proven the most reliable at sorting out and presenting a news story (and did the Gaddaffi story by very detailed “incoming news” updated method). Concerning real-time reporting, it seems that a telegraph wire, in morse code, would have been just as useful in these kinds of situations. One cannot truly report what one does not know, but some news agencies believed they were doing so. Assuming something is also a bad point for journalism, if not the ultimate sin for any journalist to commit.

    In all past cases, I have discovered this: for individuals who want to get more real-life education out of a current event, without political bias or shading of facts, but rather more details and deeper consideratons, the Vatican News Service seems to do the job very well. One will find information there that will be found nowhere else. They only report after all other “facts” have been proven, which is a practice of all top notch journalism.

    Emergency situations would be the exception, as there would be extreme factors involved in so many ways. At that point only government information would be considered anyway for the sake of public safety itself.

    Psychologically, and in every era of our human history, everyday people just want to feel they are contributing something, but it is not always a good contribution if confusion is present in any way. Find a reliable news service and stay with it for the story. Use the social sites to weigh the facts, but never consider what is coming out of them as real facts, only hearsay.

    In retrospect, it was an interesting process that I witinessed during the day, which righted itself within a few hours. Our communicative ability is incredible today, but one still must separate the wheat from the schaff, and do intelligent research themselves.

    The battle between the search engines is not even about reporting proper facts, finding facts or presenting facts, but rather one of money and prestige. This is always going to be the case no matter who is top-dog of the day.

  • http://www.stankovski.net Vlado


    What would matter to me if i learnt what president Obama had for lunch 1 minute ago?

    What Twitter, and actually the Internet as a whole still misses is the deep knowledge generated by our ancestors in the course of thousands of years of cultural history, say a folk song from my village, or a dance, or a cultural artefact that you cannot find on the Internet, you can not explore it or understand its meaning.

    Being a technologist myself, i am aware of these technology limitations. In summary, knowing what Obama had for lunch one minute ago is probably important for someone, but, it is just the surface of an ocean of knowledge and information, that is kept with humans today, that can be unlocked, but, it is still not in Today’s Internet. This kind of knowledge should be made available for us and for the future generations to appreciate and this is the direction i think the Internet should go.

    What Obama had for lunch today, will most probably be forgotten tomorrow. It would be a pitty though if a beautiful folk song from my village is forgotten for all times.

    Cheers, Vlado

  • http://googlewebsitesearch.com Google Website Search

    Real time search is extremely important to today’s user and our advice is Google should revisit real time search to stay competitive. Thank you for the excellent article. -Google Website Search-

  • http://www.q3tech.com/technology.html Software Development Services

    Real-time search was surely a good thing to have as an optional feature. Not really sure why they discontinued it in the first place.

  • Andy

    I agree with Jerald… If you want to hear the latest news then visit a news site or turn on your TV.

    Real time search might be good for gossip, but real and accurate news/information takes more than a couple of seconds (and certainly more than 140 characters) to research, verify and articulate. Twitter is great for watching celebs make idiots out of themselves or keeping up to date with someone you find interesting enough to ‘follow’, but it’s the last place I’d go looking for news.

    So I struggle to see how this event highlights any failing on Google’s part? If I wasn’t going to go straight to the BBC for this kind of story and had visited a search engine instead, then I’d mush rather see links to news sources than a list of Tweets from random strangers.

    As such I have to question the idea that “Without the ability to search what’s happening right now, Google has at least one weakness in search” because, it DOES let you search what’s happening right now by frequently updating it’s index for news sites. And better still it does not (currently at least) get clogged up with all the inane nonsense spouted by Tweeters the world over (myself included!) – 99% of the Tweets I read are exactly the sort of thing I’d expect any half decent search engine to filter out of it’s results. And the other 1% is entirely made up of links to interesting news stories ALREADY PUBLISHED ON NEWS WEBSITES AND INDEXED BY THE SEARCH ENGINES!

    I don’t see why we can’t just let Google be a tool that makes content available via search and which attempts to show the best quality information most prominently – it’s a job that needs doing and one that could certainly be improved on.

    If you want the latest news story then visit the website of a news source that you trust (or failing that go to a search engine and find one!) and if you want to know where @charliesheen is partying next or who @joey7barton is picking fights with this week, then get yourself on Twitter.

  • http://www.bennevisclothing.com Stal Koupparis

    If you want the latest news you search a news channel and not a directory such as Google, very simple!!

  • http://www.jomahali.de Walter

    I never used real time search and I do not miss it at all.

  • http://gorangrooves.com Goran

    What? News from half an hour ago is old news? Really? What difference does it make to your life whether something across the world happened 30min and 30 sec ago?
    Who cares? News are just entertainment, similar to horror movies.
    We are getting spoiled with all this “got to have it right now” mentality.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      So, let’s say Gaddafi was declared dead 30 minutes ago, but just a minute ago, it was revealed that this was false. That doesn’t make a difference? I guess it depends on what you’re doing with that information, but as long as the latest isn’t there, in this age of realtime updates, the search experience just isn’t as good as it should be. I don’t think it’s as much about being spoiled as it is just the way the world is evolving.

      • Greg

        Good as it should be? For who – it is bad enough that most of the bandwidth is wasted on spam images. What value does this bring – none. It just provides a better way for someone to cash in. How on earth does watching a flood real time benefit those in need. This is crap. The search experience would be much better if the content had value, was qualified and had some depth to it. This real time access is the same as being able to drive by an accident that just happened. It only benefits those who profit from the traffic.

  • Garison

    Are you whacked? “The best Google could do” was news from “a half-hour ago”? That’s the very definition of up-to-date. A half-hour ago *is* current news. The only way to get faster news is to read it while the author is typing it, and no search engine can do that.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Actually the best Google could do when it was getting the Twitter data was like within a minute. The best Twitter can do is like a second ago. A lot can happen in 30 minutes.

      • Greg

        This is great for twitter and people that need help but why do a bunch of ghouls need to see such up to date reports. What value do they bring. Peoples pain just becomes entertainment for others. Just like the recent auto racing death. The news pretended they were showing respect while at the same time they showed it over and over and even commented in detail how his body was hit directly.

  • http://www.mlmwatchdog.com Rod Cook

    If the world media services on the ground on the spot where the news is happening have to do updates every minute with corrections I don’t see how Google could keep up without a dedicated staff just to put news media output up.

  • http://www.al-zin.com/vb forum

    i thinks

  • http://internetbiznes.org geoio

    I don’t think Google has to offer this function.
    On the other hand I don’t like Google local search (not useful for me)and also Google Instant

  • http://www.tesselliott.com Tess Elliott

    I have been disappointed in Google since the last big change. More and more, items are coming up unrelated to my search terms, and this is happening in IMAGES, too. During our recent hurricane in the NorthEast, I had to keep a link open on my desktop to the Weather Channel because NY1 was not updating frequently, and Google results were mostly OLDER hurricanes from the past. And it is true that breaking news has not been exactly breaking anymore. I welcome change when it is better, but it felt as though Google fixed what wasn’t broken to start with.

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