Posted May 7, 2009 10:14 am by with 21 comments

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Twitter is always making news. Now they are putting together a robust search service that may help them get that news out faster and more spider-killerefficiently than Google itself. Rafe Needleman over at cnet put together a report shortly after speaking directly to Twitter’s new VP of Operations, Santosh Jayaram, who was VP of Search Quality for Google until recently (remember the talk about Googlers leaving the mothership?). The ‘leak’ of Twitter’s new search plans leaves plenty of room for speculation so let’s go!

Needleman writes

Speaking (with LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue) on a panel I was moderating, and later in a one-on-one discussion, Jayaram confirmed that Twitter Search, which currently searches only the text of Twitter posts, will soon begin to crawl the links included in tweets and begin to index the content of those pages.

Holy Potential Game Changer, Batman! The idea that a search engine could be more ‘real time’ and in essence more people powered will be very attractive to the social media set. As Twitter’s user numbers go through the roof then the idea of how this could influence people is pretty interesting to say the least.

Looking even more into the future of Twitter search Jayaram talked of having a reputation ranking system in place soon. Jayaram said

When you do a search on a “trending” topic (a topic that is so big it gets its own link in the sidebar), Twitter will take into account the reputation of the person who wrote each tweet and rank search results in part based on that.

This kind of offering could certainly up the ante for anyone looking to possibly acquire Twitter. Google obviously would like to own a direct threat to their model while a company like Microsoft could feel pretty excited about really getting in the game via a Twitter acquisition.

Of course, all of that remains to be seen. Many will not like the idea of Twitter being run by anyone other than Twitter. Freedom has its merits especially if there is real revenue potential through ads on Twitter search.

To wrap up, here is a story that may someday be part of the Twitter company lore as it exhibits the real time capability of the service.

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.

Embellished? Who knows? It sure does make one think though doesn’t it?

  • That is interesting because they could definitely monetize the search results.

    It would be a fairly incomplete index, though, if they were only looking at links from Tweets. Huge segments of the internet would be ignored as well as a lot of older data. It would be potentially useful for getting new news quickly about certain topics but would that be enough to make it really useful?

    It will be interesting to see where Twitter takes their search projects, though.

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  • Rob

    Being that I live just a few miles from Morgan Hill, and Tweeted right when I felt that earthquake, I believe it.

    Rob’s last blog post..Poll – Justify Content or Left Align Content

  • For companies trying to market on the Internet, I think that this raises the importance of developing an online social media strategy.

    Ignoring Twitter as a powerful search engine would now seem to be a recipe for disaster. I feel that the argument for participation in social media has now become much more compelling whilst the battle for online ‘reputation’ is likely to step up more.

  • The idea of an engine with freshness as it’s core is as impressive as the original impetus behind Google. It/ll be interesting to watch this unfold.

  • It will be interesting to see if the use of Tiny URLs will reduce if this happens and how long before Twitter Optimisation Specialists start promoting services. Maybe they are out there already??


  • I share Chris’ thought on this. The uniqueness of the search results would be the age of the links and tweets. So while it discounts results not contained in tweets, it should provide a fair amount of recent data based on the facts that tweets are typically up-to-the minutes news.

    Hope this doesn’t bring the blue whale to the surface more than ever…..

    Bob Williams’s last blog post..Six Flags. More customer focused flags = more fun

  • This absolutely makes Twitter more of an important factor when developing an online media social strategy. Perhaps we don’t know exactly what Twitter will do with all the links it crawls, visits and stores- but anytime and anywhere we know a link is being crawled means something as far as SEO is considered.

  • You can already see from google results that twitter is becoming increasingly popular with google’s results

  • I can’t wait to see real-time search be even better than Twitter’s current search. In Google, Twitter will become the news of now just as Wikipedia is the user generated reference.

  • Twitters problem is not search, but scaling. It better use some of the millions in the bank to bury the ‘Fail whale’ once and for all. Twitter reminds me of my hosting provider. Not an ideal comparison test.

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  • Twittler definitely needs to beef up their infrastructure to be able to handle this. All that really takes is money! Once they come up with a good business model, there is no reason they can’t a force to go up against Google.

    Steve Mason’s last blog post..Getting Started with Twitter

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  • Good article, twitter will definitely have a powerful search tool when all is said and done. The ranking system is a must as there are more and more users, thus more and more BS in the stream. Will twitter “squash google’s spider”? No, but for certain querys it will be a better tool and certainly put a dent in google’s market share. By the title I thought twitter was going to stop allowing google to crawl them, I was like “holy sh*t”!!

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  • I first read the title of this post and thought it was going to be about some crazy step akin to what Digg did with its toolbar – but luckily this is actually a really smart move on Twitter’s part. I’d say way to go – if they can handle it and have the resources to spider the web, let them. Google has been a monopoly for way too long so some competition will not hurt for sure. As for the reputation – at the current state this should be a really difficult and interesting process, kudos to the Twitter folks if they actually manage to make something good out of it.

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  • there are many search engine claiming they are better than google but its all about traffics which google have more than other

  • Definitely a smart move on Twitter’s part. The trending tool is somethng that can help people predict what will be popular (monetarily wise as well) in the near future – that’s something quite valuable indeed.

  • There was some real question about what Twitter was planning with their lack of a business model at first, but it’s starting to become clear. If twitter plays their cards right this could be a serious game changer.

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  • Interesting first step. Match this with third-party spidering limitations on Twitter reputation criteria and they'd have a competitive advantage over Google. Not a Google-killer yet by any means, but the start of a platform to build one from. Rock on Santosh!