Does Google Need Twitter?

    August 7, 2011
    Chris Crum

As previously reported, Google is talking about bringing back its Realtime Search feature. It’s been missing since last month because Google and Twitter couldn’t agree on terms to extend their partnership which gave Google access to the firehose – the source of all tweets in realtime – a crucial factor of what’s going on “right now”.

Do you think realtime search is an important feature for Google to have? Tell us what you think.

When Google’s deal with Twitter expired, Google said the following in a statement, as reported by Search Engine Land:

Since October of 2009, we have had an agreement with Twitter to include their updates in our search results through a special feed, and that agreement expired on July 2. While we will not have access to this special feed from Twitter, information on Twitter that’s publicly available to our crawlers will still be searchable and discoverable on Google.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always as helpful (though it certainly can be from time to time) outside of the realtime context.

As Ben Parr reported, Google’s Amit Singhal said they’re working on bringing it back using Google+ and “other sources”.

Now, it’s important to remember that Twitter was not the only thing powering Google’s realtime search in the first place. It also included (and presumably still will include) Google Buzz posts, public Facebook Page updates, MySpace posts, Google News sources, blogs, Quora, Friendfeed, Jaiku, Gowalla, Twitgoo, TwitArmy, Me2Day,, and regular web pages that were simply newly updated (Google can index pretty quickly thanks to Caffeine). Now it will also apparently include Google+ when it comes back.

Given the fact that when it lost Twitter, it shut down the feature entirely, it seems fairly obvious that Twitter was a very critical element. If you ever used the feature much, it was pretty clear that the majority of content was coming from Twitter. So the real question becomes: Can Google+ replace Twitter as a source of realtime updates?

Maybe Google should try to at least go another year using Twitter for realtime search, and give Google+ a chance to match it in content. The incredible growth is there, but you’re not getting the kind of stuff on Google+ that you’re getting on Twitter. Not at this point.

We’ve made the case that Google+ could maim Twitter. A lot of people have already claimed that their Google+ time is eating into their Twitter time (more so than their Facebook time). In many ways, Google+ is much more comparable to Twitter – especially in the area of public updates – what makes realtime search go ’round.

It’s not there yet though. Twitter has the celebrities, all of the brands, the years of establishing its reputation, the revolutions in the Middle East, the news media inserting it into report after report, etc. Many people have only recently started getting into Twitter, and likely don’t want to jump into another network already. They’re just getting used to Twitter.

Google+ does already have a great deal of information. I won’t dispute that. This is especially true for the Internet industry – many players of which, are also early adopters of the service. Sure, it has a few celebrities, and brands are coming. Are you going to get the kind of breaking news from average citizens that you get from Twitter though?

I don’t think so. Not yet anyway. Are you going to get things like the Hudson River emergency plane landing? The live tweeting of the Bin Laden raid? The high profile Tim Tebow wars? Not so much. Again, not yet anyway. Not to anywhere near the same extent, at least.

It has a familiarity to the general public, and it’s open to them. Google+ isn’t even open to the general public without invitation, and they’re already talking about using it to power the realtime search features, which was mainly powered by Twitter?

If you want to see up to the second results from around the world on what people are saying about any given topic, where do you go? Google+ or Twitter?

If Google really wants to organize the world’s information, maybe it needs to fork out enough money to get that firehose back. At least for a while. The early days are promising, but it’s still entirely possible that Google+ could turn into another Google Buzz or worse yet, another Google Wave.

Google did reportedly indicate that they’re working on bringing a search feature to Google+. That would be a start. I still can’t believe Google of all companies launched such an important strategic product without search in the first place.

Do you you think Google+ can replace Twitter for realtime search? Let us know in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.