Announced alongside BackType Connect today, BackTweets is a fresh new take on a Twitter search engine: It un-shortens and catalogs URLs sent via Twitter. We believe that, even though BackTweets was created to fill a piece of BackType Connect's total conversation search offering, it will also become an important player by itself and we are glad to see it has gotten its own clean look.
First, let's focus on BackType Connect for a moment. This product is similar to PostRank where an article URL can be submitted and conversations, wherever they may happen, will be found and summarized. This is great for tracking buzz around an issue, or for further reading on a particular topic. But while it can invoke BackTweets to search for tweets around the referring URL, it is limited to searching for the particular article URL. For example, if you search for readwriteweb.com in BackType Connect, you will first come to a disambiguation page (seen below) before you can (eventually) look up specific Twitter results.
However, here's the beauty of using BackTweets search directly: You can put in any partial or complete URL and get a useful result. Go ahead and search for readwriteweb or backtype. You will get all tweets with a URL that contains what you are searching for. This means that as a general indicator of buzz on Twitter, you can cast your net even wider using BackTweets than you can with BackType Connect. Plus, this is something that Twitter Search is almost completely blind to - compressed (or shortened, or shrunk) URLs. BackType expands all URLs before they get stored so your search results will always contain all the tweets, no matter what service is used to make the URL shorter in the tweet.
This is all good news. But we would like to point out a couple of features that seem to be lacking. First, the biggest oversight is RSS support. Visually, searches performed on BackTweets look very similar to results from Twitter Search (down to the notification that new results have appeared). But once you are satisfied with your search term, there's no way of grabbing a feed of it and dropping it in to a feed reader or other utility. Second, and somewhat related, there does not seem to be an open API to get these results either.
We can understand the lack of an API, based on BackTweets status primarily as an ancillary search engine for BackType Connect. But it is frustrating that we can't get a feed of our search results. Hopefully this was more of an oversight rather than a deliberate decision, because without it BackTweets, as an external search interface, is more of a technical demo than an extensible tool.