In the immediate wake of the announcement of Bing's indexing Twitter updates, Google has announced it will be doing the same.
Taking the wind out of the sails of many a real-time search engine, Google's and Microsoft's announcements further put to rest a maelstrom of rumors swirling around the startup's possible acquisition and partnerships. Marissa Mayer wrote today on the official Google blog, "We believe that our search results and user experience will greatly benefit from the inclusion of this up-to-the-minute data, and we look forward to having a product that showcases how tweets can make search better in the coming months."
The Deal Per Se
Also of note is the fact that Google's agreement to index Twitter posts is, in itself, newsworthy. The deal has apparently been brokered recently enough that no examples or screenshots are yet available.
No less newsworthy is the fact that both Google and Microsoft have announced Twitter search deals on the same day. With the rash of real-time search startups over the past two years and the heavy-hitters' focus on real-time search integration over the past several months, the terms of this particular game become increasingly clear. The search market money remains in advertising, and who controls search by serving the best, most relevant results, will also control search revenue.
The Deal As Dollars
If readers will direct their attention to the heady days of the dotcom boom, they will recall that Google was able to effectively kill Yahoo! search - and capture and monetize that traffic - when Yahoo! began serving search results from Google. Shortly thereafter, Google grew to dominate the search landscape in its own right.
When considering real-time search, one begins to see a similar pattern emerging. Twitter is but one of the many real-time properties that serve valuable backlinks with keyword-rich content. If Twitter or any of its ilk were to be acquired by a search giant, real-time search would be effectively weighted to one site or another; and with that weight of traffic would come a weight of ad dollars. It would be very unlike Google to let such an opportunity pass; however, indexing Twitter is a difficult, time-consuming task that has absorbed many teams in the sphere of startups in real-time search.
The Deal As Product
The sheer amount of data available is mind-boggling. Wowd has resorted to distributed computing (à la SETI@Home) to solve the problem. OneRiot has put a team of 25 engineers to work for two years to solve the problem of effectively serving relevant results from the real-time web. And Collecta has used IM-affiliated technologies to bring streaming data to the space, shaving off even the most minute delays between machine indexing and human discovery.
In short, these back-to-back announcements could spell either a mass acquisition of real-time search engines or a mass extinction. The search giants have enough market- and mindshare to make any startup obsolete; regardless of how late they are to this game, they have the power to bring real-time search to the mainstream market.
The Deal for Twitter & Startups
Also, both Google and Microsoft must consider when serving Twitter results whether the startup can handle a firehose of search giant-level traffic. The notorious Outages of the Summer of 2008 called the company's scalability into question. But when one considers the fact that 1 out of 5 Internet users is on Twitter (or a similar service) and almost all Internet users are searching via Google or Microsoft, one wonders whether Twitter's back end can handle a fivefold onslaught of traffic.
Will Twitter require a data center for handling Google-fed traffic? How will Twitter deal with serving results on topics to newer or less experienced Internet users? Were these questions part of the company's conversations with Google?
To many in the real-time search-o-sphere, these announcements resound as both validation of long years of research and development and as apocalyptic overtones of longtime giants muscling their way onto the frontier. Who will survive, who is in acquisition talks, and who will be designated for obsolescence? More ReadWriteWeb coverage is coming soon; please stay tuned and leave your comments below.