Will Google ever restore its realtime search feature? Will Google and Twitter ever reach another agreement giving Google the access to Twitter's firehose it needs to make the feature useful? Would the feature ever work without Twitter?
These are questions we've asked repeatedly since the deal expired last year, and the realtime search feature went way. Given that Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible, with search being the flagship product, it seems that this is an area that Google should have nailed down. Unfortunately, that's far from the case.
Now, the best place to search if you want to find up to the second news and commentary about something that is happening "right now," is undeniably Twitter. That might have still been the case even when Google had the feature, but Google had/has the luxury of being the starting point for search for most people.
We recently had a conversation with Mark Schaefer, author of The Tao Of Twitter, and wanted to see what he thinks about this. We asked:
How badly does Google need to get Twitter’s firehose back for realtime search? Do you think that Google is missing an important function without it? At the same time, is Twitter benefiting from people not going to Google for these kinds of searches?
“Twitter is trying to reign things in as a way to create more opportunities for monetization," Schaefer tells WebProNews. "To the extent they can do that, then yes, Twitter will benefit. The real-time results from Twitter are an irreplaceable, unique and highly valuable asset, especially when it comes to providing 'warm' search results based on timely comments from friends.”
“It’s quite ironic that Google+ has been so conservative with providing access to their API," he adds. "At SXSW last year, Google’s Vic Gundrota said before they made it available, they wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do so people would not be disappointed down the road. In hindsight, his comments seem prescient!”
Since Google got rid of the feature, Twitter has done things to improve its own realtime search. If Google is not careful, this thing could snowball in Twitter's favor. Twitter is already a major source of news on the web, and publishers are increasingly distancing themselves from Google News.
"New data from The Social Habit project reveals that Twitter is benefiting from a youth movement," Schaefer tells us. "People between 12-17 appear to be piling on to Twitter now. Are they using it for straight news? Probably not!”
“By comparison, I have surrounded myself on Twitter with the brightest marketing experts I can find," he adds. "To a large extent, on this topic, Twitter is my trusted RSS feed and it is a very effective one. Today, the news breaks on Twitter. So, yes, Twitter can be an excellent news feed if that is what you want it to be.”
Could Twitter replace Google News for more and more people? Twitter cares about news. They even recently put out a set of best practices for journalists.
“News breaks on Twitter, whether local or global, of narrow or broad interest,” Twitter analytics research scientist Jimmy Lin recently said. “When news breaks, Twitter users flock to the service to find out what’s happening. Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most meaningful to them; the speed at which our content (and the relevance signals stemming from it) evolves make this more technically challenging, and we are hard at work continuously refining our relevance algorithms to address this."
"Just to give one example: search, boiled down to its basics, is about computing term statistics such as term frequency and inverse document frequency," he added. "Most algorithms assume some static notion of underlying distributions — which surely isn’t the case here!”
“During major events, the frequency of queries spike dramatically,” Lin noted. ”For example, on October 5 , immediately following news of the death of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, the query ‘steve jobs’ spiked from a negligible fraction of query volume to 15% of the query stream — almost one in six of all queries issued!”
It's interesting that even Google is acknowledging Twitter's growing role in news seekers' content consumption habits. One of Google's official twitter accounts tweeted this out today:
— Google B2B Markets (@B2BUK) October 22, 2012
That links to a Brand Republic piece, which says:
The research, seen exclusively by Media Week, from Ipsos Media shows that 20% of top European businessmen, including chief executives and finance directors, are spending more time on Twitter in an average month, than on global business websites such as Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Economist.
The data also reveals that the business elite have dropped off in their daily consumption of the Financial Times and The Economist.
Beyond just news, there is also the social element of Twitter, and Google is increasingly looking to personalize search based on social connections. Twitter (not to mention Facebook) could play a significant role here too, even in real-time terms, when relevant, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen any time soon.
By the way, Twitter (like other Google competitors) is poaching Googlers. They reportedly just got Google business development director, Matthew Derrella.