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Twitter *kills* Google in real-time search

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 by Dave Winer.

Matt Cutts: "The real-time web is not the threat. Google can index data in seconds.' Permalink to this paragraph

He's the head of webspam team at Google, and a man who, obviously, knows a lot about search. Permalink to this paragraph

That was 17 hours ago as I write this at almost 2AM, Twitter's real-time search has had a story, a few thousand night owls were up, in LA and around the world, and news was breaking, the kind of sensational prurient goop that Twitter loves, a LA car chase, covered by helicopter. As I write this, Twitter is about 1 hour ahead of Google, that is, Google's latest news is 1 hour behind Twitter's.  Permalink to this paragraph

Here's a screen shot of a Google News search done at 1:50AM Pacific. Permalink to this paragraph

Granted, this is not (likely) an earth-shaking story. But if it were, the same technology would apply. It's a good test case, a good dry run. Permalink to this paragraph

Also granted, the Twitter result is scattered and disorganized. If you weren't watching the event unfold in realtime you would not be able to piece together the story. However I was watching realtime while it was happening, hitting Twitter's realtime search and watching my incoming twitstream. I follow over 800 people, and a lot of them were fascinated with the story of the slow-speed chase through LA of the police by someone driving a white Bentley. Who is it? Why is it taking so long?  Permalink to this paragraph

We watched as a helicopter hovered over the scene where the driver was apprehended. Ominously one Twitterer says the driver killed himself on camera on ABC. Now there are some published mainstream reports that say this too. Permalink to this paragraph

At 1:57AM, Google has a link to an AP story with an update about the driver being taken away in an ambulance. The story has a post time of 1:34AM, about 25 minutes ago as I write this at 2AM. Permalink to this paragraph

Now all this is likely to get washed out in a few hours when the reports are filed and there's been a press conference. My point is that Twitter is doing something new and with all due respect to Google, something that Google isn't. However, there's a lot of room for improvement, and connections between the various parts of the news ecosystem.  Permalink to this paragraph

Every serious news outlet should have someone monitoring Twitter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They should be following at least a few hundred people, feel free to clone my follow list, if you like. It got me in the loop on this within minutes. When a story breaks, a reporter should be dispatched to cover the news that the Twitter community uncovers. The first news organization that does this well is going to get a ton of flow and attention and be well-positioned for the new 24-minute news cycle. Google clearly needs to get their hooks into the Twitter flow, but it's not clear that Twitter wants them in there, hence the last part of @mattcutts's quote, which is ominous: "The larger issue is when search engines can't see data." As we often say "Bing!" -- that's the crux of the biscuit. Permalink to this paragraph

As happens so often in tech, we're coming up to a repeat of the sitdown scene in The Godfather where the heads of the other families tell Don Corleone that he must share his Senators, which he keeps in his pocket, like so many coins. (I'll look for the exact quote.) Twitter is holding some valuable coins in its pocket. But Google need not sit on the sideline, they're a big force, and they're moving into social networkings like an aircraft carrier, slowly and deliberately, one step at a time. Permalink to this paragraph

Another note -- this is a thread we've been following here on scripting.com since 1996. Today we call it "real-time search," back then I called for JIT-SEs or Just-in-time search engines. Permalink to this paragraph

One more observation: Sometimes having insomnia pays off. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

Update: At 2:25AM, the LA Times has a lot more detail.  Permalink to this paragraph

Update: The full Godfather quote from the screenplay by Mario Puzo. "Don Corleone is too modest. He had the judges and politicians in his pocket and he refused to share them. His refusal is not the act of a friend. He takes the bread out of the mouths of our families. Times have changed, it's not like the old days where everyone can go his own way. If Don Corleone had all the judges and politicians in New York, then he must share them or let others use them. Certainly he can present a bill for such services, we're not Communists, after all. But he has to let us draw water from the well. It's that simple." Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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