The End of Real Time Search?


An interesting article over on Programmable Web the other day about whether not it is finally the end for real time search that I suggest you read. In the article it talks about two major “instant update” search sites that shut down in recent months leaving only Topsy and Google as the primary time sensitive search sites (there are a handful of others too).

The article talks about whether real time search is a fad or just isn’t leveraged properly in “search engine” style results pages which is probably more the case, real time searches to have relevant results can’t have a simple single column feed that updates so quickly you can’t really read the tweets as they pass as can happen when searching for something like “Justin Bieber” on Google.

From my own estimations this type of search is nearly useless for finding the most common sources of information and that is how to articles and news stories. Though you can get a snippet of what someone is saying about something, you always will want to read an article for more information not follow a stream of people talking about it. This is like trying to join a phone conversation between 50 people 5 minutes late and making heads or tails as to what the hell is going on.

Real Time Search is ideal for breaking news or information about a location, event occurring but is not ideal for news where detail and meat is needed. There is a reason journalists who report in such frequent updates are few, because it takes time to collect facts and reporting information incorrectly so you can have “real time updates” is far worse than getting the facts right and reporting more detail and information about the story.

If I do a search and I want time based results it will typically be about whether there is traffic on the freeway or about a car accident in my neighborhood. I don’t need instant results on whether people are talking about Oprah’s half sister, I can read an article in the paper around it. Generally most people who do searches want information not constant “opinions” anyway, after all real time searches don’t provide a venue for “two way conversation” which is one thing that social media networks thrive on and is their sole purpose. What good is getting the results if you cant reply and join in the conversation anyway?

Real time searches will likely only be popular on the applications that tie into the social networking clients themselves, like searching on Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or Twitter directly. Facebook isn’t an ideal method since you can’t really query for information only people, places, pages, businesses. There isn’t a massive “stream” where all users comments go to (who are public) that can be indexed and searched for example. (If there is I haven’t heard about it).

How often do you use Google for hourly or minute based search results? Have you ever used Topsy for anything other than to track how many retweets your own articles were getting, or for looking at the latest trends?

Let me know your thoughts on real time search.

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