Twitter looks to shake up search

Twitter searches, unlike Google's, are fairly representative snapshots of what people are doing and thinking right in the moment. And while the service's text-only search is not nearly as robust as Google's, that's all set to change soon. CNET's Rafe Needleman reports that Twitter is readying some very cool changes to its search technology, including crawling the links included in tweets and indexing the content of those Web pages. And though Twitter search will hardly replace Google, it could fast become an indispensable companion to it.

First, to get an idea of the stark contrast between the two types of search, check out the story Santosh Jayaram, Twitter's new VP of operations (and Google's former VP of search quality) told at a recent panel discussion. Needleman reports:

[Jayaram] told of being in the Twitter offices in San Francisco on March 30, when the Twitter engineers noticed that the word "earthquake" had suddenly started trending up. They didn't know where the earthquake was. Several seconds later, their building started to shake. The earthquake had been in Morgan Hill, 60 miles south of San Francisco, and the tweets about the shaker reached the office faster than the seismic waves themselves.

That's the power of real-time. And now that Twitter is adding more context around its search, via the crawled and indexed Web pages, it's bound to become even more useful. Jayaram also noted that Twitter plans to somehow add a reputation ranking system, so that the most respected tweets float to the top of the search results (although he declined to reveal just how that might be accomplished).

The synergies between the two types of search, however, are the most interesting to contemplate. Couple Twitter's soon-to-be-bolstered real-time search with Google's more comprehensive, historical record and you end up with a pretty compelling offering that's bound to shake up the search landscape.

And you can bet Google knows that too. Although Apple has bubbled to the top of the Twitter merger musings lately, it's a bit too early to count Google out yet. They'd be wise to figure out how best to either partner with--or buy up--Twitter before it's too late.

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