Twitter Lets The Big Boys Handle Search

Finally, the major search engines will be getting access to Twitter data. First, we heard that Microsoft’s Bing was getting access. The cool part of this announcement was the fact that the search service was almost immediately available and can be tried out at Shortly after that announcement, Google also announced they would have access as well. Sadly, Google only announced the deal, and had nothing to show for it.

Given the complaints that many users have around Twitter search, it sounds like Twitter has give up on offering search and will let search companies handle the search for them. This is a good thing for all of us. However, you will notice that the two companies are taking drastically different directions.

bing Hot Topics
Bing’s main Twitter search page, in the image to the right, is a “Hot topics” cloud and a small sample of links regarding those topics. When you search for something, you get the tweets and links for the search term, similar to the Hot Topics display. For my few international readers, it does sound like this new feature is geo-tarded and restricted to the US only.

There are some other things to note as well. The display of the tweets is nicely formatted with links to the user and specific tweet. If you look in the upper right corner of the tweets, you will see an RT in a comment bubble. Clicking that link will automatically format a retweet for you. That type of integration is surprising for a search engine, but obviously Bing is trying something different than your typical data dump.

Google did not have anything to show us, but their blog post did have an interesting nugget:

we are very excited to announce that we have reached an agreement with Twitter to include their updates in our search results. We believe that our search results and user experience will greatly benefit from the inclusion of this up-to-the-minute data, and we look forward to having a product that showcases how tweets can make search better in the coming months.

If you think about this, it basically says that tweets will appear in the search results. This means that next to various site links we will have tweets as well. I find this interesting mainly because it is the exact opposite of what Bing is doing. By integrating tweets into your normal search results, they become just another piece of data. However, Google has been making improvements to make time a more relevant measure in their searches. So, the integration of tweets fits with their current direction. The example they use is if you search for “snow conditions at your favorite ski resort, you’ll find tweets from other users who are there and sharing the latest and greatest information.” Obviously, they will be looking for temporal cues in order to determine the relevance of time to your search.

What does this mean to us? First, it means we will hopefully get more complete search results than are currently possible using Twitter search. More importantly, the completely different directions being taken by Bing and Google allow us to have a choice. It could be that Bing’s display will be better for some purposes, while Google could be better for others. In the end, choice and competition lead to innovation. As I have said before, when companies need to innovate, the users win.

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