First the usual disclosures. Google is an investor in Fon. Twitter has no relationship with Fon, but I know Ev Williams a little and some investors like Chris Sacca well. Personally I think that neither investments nor friendship will taint the objectivity of this post, but disclosing is better than non disclosing.
Now the post.
Google knows that Twitter is both an opportunity and a threat. Twitter is a threat because it is instant search – compared to Google’s crawled (slow) search – but also because, in many cases, Twitter yields better results. For example, what is the point of collecting a 3-year link history for a fashion brand and give search results if the most relevant information about that fashion brand may be that 5 minutes ago a hugely followed celebrity says she’s crazy about it. Twitter is now big enough to move the needle in the real world quickly enough for Google to miss it.
Now here is the opportunity:
Google is great at creating hierarchies of information. The original idea of Google, which comes from science, is that “he/she who is linked to the most must be saying the most relevant things”. Now what is missing is that same analysis but cranked on Twitter data.
How would I refine search in Twitter? To me there are two measures of Twitter relevance. One is how many followers a persons has, and the other one how frequently this person is retweeted. In my opinion, the opportunity for Google is to use its computing power to come up with very relevant, instant answers to problems using Google results, Twitter results and when using Twitter ranking according to followers and retweets. To that, it should add PINGED results, namely results whose location on the web has been volunteered as in blogs or news. To see a ping search engine check out Technorati in which I am an investor.
Google created a meritocracy on the internet. If you have a high Google ranking, what you say, for example in your blog, matters more in search. Well, I think Google is the company most equipped to blend crawled search with real time search by combining Google results, Twitter results and PINGED results (results that were not crawled but picked up from recent blog and news pings).
Here’s a small experiment I did called “unfolding news” that shows the beginning of a twitter+news+blog results. This is what you get when you search for “ash cloud” in unfolding news. This is what you get when you search for “ash cloud” in Google. Unfolding news is an experiment that does not use Google results, but I find it more useful than Google for learning about things that are happening or “unfolding”. Google could do a much better job blending “old web” and “new web” sources.
Conclusion: instead of wasting time with Buzz emulating or copying Twitter, Google could complement Twitter with what Twitter needs most, making sense out of searching something in Twitter.
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