Google is announcing this morning that after more than a year of work on the problem, Google Finance is now offering real-time price quotes for any stock traded on NASDAQ.

As Henry Blodget points out at Silicon Alley Insider, Yahoo! Finance has had real time quotes for a while now and the companies appear to be engaged in some minor squabbling about who's real time quotes are more real time. That's a secondary, albeit important, matter as far as we're concerned. Of more general interest is the increasing availability of and user expectation for real time information on the web.

The Growth of Real Time

In January we wrote about the potential for powering the web with the open source XMPP Jabber protocol used in many IM platforms. Since that time we've seen XMPP used to power real time communication on Facebook and Jive Software's enterprise social networking. Developer support network Qunu has implemented XMPP for real time crowdsourced technical assistance. We've seen Twitter struggle with the real time XMPP part of its infrastructure. The protocol is being explored by multi-media messaging service Seesmic. The soon-to-launch cloud computing project Vertebra from Engine Yard will use XMPP to enable the complex communication between apps in the cloud. (See presentation slides from Vertebra's Ezra Zygmuntowicz below.) More XMPP for machine to machine communication would be super hot. Real time photo sharing and discussion service PhotoPhlow uses Java and is still in closed beta. We wrote about real time news tracker Anothr last month, as well. SlingPage just launched 10 minutes ago and lets users share and discuss web pages with each other in real time. We expect to see more and more apps offering real time functionality through a variety of methods.

We don't know if Google Finance is using XMPP but we wouldn't be surprised. The point is, though, that the real-time web deserves a place in the "next big thing" column. From push-email to live video, from AJAX to social browsing experiences - a real time web can offer social connectedness, interface responsiveness and a smooth user experience that stands head and shoulders above the call-and-response web of the past.

Imagine a web characterized by standards based recommendations, filtering and easy collaboration - all in real time. That's going to be a thrilling new era and it's one that is foretold by the increasingly mainstream adoption of real time information delivery in places like Google Finance.