Twitter, Google, and search

For some reason, the “Twitter is a Google killer” hyperbole has sprung up again in the last week or so. And this time, there are some important thought leaders like John Battelle chiming in. Here’s what he wrote in a post called “Twitter = YouTube”:

So why did Google really buy YouTube? My answer, which of course looks brilliant given it’s 20/20 hindsight: YouTube was a massive search asset. Fast forward to today. What’s the most important and quickly growing form of search on the web today? Real time, conversational search. And who’s the YouTube of real time search? Yep. Twitter.

I’ve been writing about Twitter Search since the early days of Summize – I’ve always loved it. It’s no surprise to me that others are finally starting to see the value in it. Here’s what I wrote in October, for instance:

Lots of people already contribute to the noise on Twitter, and I think their user base will only continue to grow. So they’ve got that covered. Increasingly it seems that Twitter is working to extract value from that noise. That’s the area they need to focus on most.

The improvements to Twitter Search have been minimal – the addition of the “source” parameter to results, and testing integrated search on the main website. I’d love to see some additional improvements to the service.

Others who have discussed the “Twitter threat to Google” idea include: San Jose Mercury News, Fimoculous, Search Engine Journal, and The Blog Herald. AllFacebook looks at it from another angle.

What should you take away from this? Essentially, that Twitter Search is becoming increasingly important. If you’re not already using it, start now. And don’t expect Google and others to ignore it forever.

What's trending right now?

twitter It’s been nearly three months since Twitter purchased Summize and renamed it Twitter Search. They still haven’t integrated Twitter Search into the main site, but they have made a number of other improvements:

Those last two points are the most important, I think. When you visit the Twitter home page, it asks you a simple question: “What are you doing?” Until now, that question has been Twitter in a nutshell. Moving forward though, I think a new question becomes equally as important: “What’s trending right now?”

I’ve said for a long time (with regards to Twitter) that there’s value in noise. It might seem dumb or trivial for me to post a tweet that says I am sleeping, but what if everyone did? Heck, we don’t even need everyone, just a sizable percentage. Then we could ask the question “how many people are sleeping right now?” and have real numbers to answer it with.

Twitter seems to have two sides now – gathering the noise, and filtering it.

Lots of people already contribute to the noise on Twitter, and I think their user base will only continue to grow. So they’ve got that covered. Increasingly it seems that Twitter is working to extract value from that noise. That’s the area they need to focus on most. I’m not sure how they plan to monetize their creation, but I suspect this is a big part of it.

The Election 2008 site seems like an experiment. If it goes well, I’d expect them to launch a number of other mini-sites in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow expanded on the trending entries on the blog too.

For me, Twitter Search is already the #1 stop for news. It’s where I learned that O.J. Simpson was found guilty, and that the bailout plan had passed. I think others will increasingly turn to Twitter Search first also.

You tell Twitter what you’re doing, and they’ll tell you what’s trending. I can’t wait to see where this leads!

Twitter officially acquires and rebrands Summize

twitter When I wrote about Summize last week, I mentioned the rumor that the search engine was being acquired by Twitter. Today the deal was formally announced, though no financial details were shared:

We’re excited to announce that Twitter has acquired Summize—an extraordinary search tool and an amazing group of engineers. All five Summize engineers will move to San Francisco, CA and take jobs at Twitter, Inc. This is an important step forward in the evolution of Twitter as a service and as a company.

The old Summize site started redirecting to http://search.twitter.com earlier this morning, and the colorful Summize logo has been replaced with the blue Twitter one. Sadly, they’ve also shut down the Summize Labs section of the site, with a loose promise to bring the prototypes back in some form down the road.

According to TechCrunch, the deal was mostly stock. They have a video up with Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and will be posting a transcript of the interview later today.

For a much more interesting take on the deal, check out the Summize blog post:

It’s with great pride that I officially confirm Twitter’s acquisition of Summize. The rationale for this transaction from Twitter can be found here. I’ll outline my motivation to sell our beloved Summize, talk about our experience soup to nuts, and recognize the players who made this deal possible.

They provide an excellent overview of how they got to today, and they specifically cite Fred Wilson‘s help in getting the deal done.

Congrats to everyone involved!

UPDATE: Here’s the interview (with transcript and analysis) that Michael Arrington did with Evan Williams. They talk about Summize, the API, and Twitter’s revenue model.

Summize Conversational Search

Summize If you haven’t checked out Summize yet, you should. Summize is a conversational search engine. Their mission is to “search & discover the topics and attitudes expressed within online conversations.” I think Summize is a decent preview of what search engines of the future will look like, even though it only works with content from Twitter at the moment.

I got started with Summize for a very specific, practical reason. When Twitter took the instant messaging interface down (and track along with it) I lost my primary method of watching for replies. I turned to Summize for help, searching for my username so that I’d see when someone replied to me (turns out you can craft more specific searches using the Advanced Search). I continue to use this method today.

Eventually though, I started to use Summize for other things. Occasionally I’d see a tweet about something, such as the Los Angeles airport being shut down, but there was nothing in the news yet. A quick search on Summize for LAX gave me the answers from people on the ground. I remember “watching” Tiger Woods win the US Open on Summize (everything is in real-time…I just followed the commentary). And lately I use it to see what people are saying about Edmonton with the #yeg hashtag.

summize search

Another thing I’ve used Summize for is movie reviews from real people. Let’s say I want to go see Hancock. Of course I’d check a site like Rotten Tomatoes, but what I really want to know is what people thought as soon as they left the theatre – did it suck or not? They can share that via Twitter, simply by sending a text message, and thousands do. Summize allows me to focus on those tweets by searching for Hancock. For common searches like new movies, Summize highlights them as a “trending topic”, visible in the sidebar of the site.

It’s this last kind of search that gets me particularly excited about Summize (and intrigued by the possible Twitter acquisition of Summize). Summize Labs have taken things a step further with Realtime Twitter Sentiment. Now I don’t even have to look through results, I just enter “Hancock” and Summize tells me that the “overall sentiment on this topic is so-so.” Wonder how well it works? A search for Rogers Canada currently says the sentiment is bad (people are upset about the iPhone rate plans). Summize is like a dream come true for marketers – they can find out what people are saying about their product or service in realtime. Very cool stuff.

I think Summize rocks. It has a great interface, powerful features, and it’s fast. Summize makes it possible to find value in the noise created on Twitter.