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Twitter slowly unfolding its search ambitions

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It has been fairly obvious for a few years that the search-driven, URL-centric web would converge with the web of social objects. It is something that is driving Google(s goog)’s paranoia. It is also something Facebook(s fb) dreams about. However, the company most likely to capture the opportunity is Twitter, the San Francisco-based company that started life as a micro-messaging company but has now evolved into a new kind of hybrid-media platform.

Twitter has been slowly transforming itself into a post-Google information company. In past few weeks alone it has unveiled expandable tweets, hashtag-based pages and other similar innovations. These embellishments to their core messaging offering show that it is Twitter, and not Facebook, that Google has to worry about.

Twitter’s search ambitions are becoming clearer with the people it is adding to its search team. For instance, it recently hired away John Wang, a well-known engineer in the search business from LinkedIn(s lnkd). In addition, the company added Ruslan Belkin as a Director of Engineering, Search and Relevance. Twitter has also made its search better, or at least faster, as it noted in a blog post. They have added related queries and spelling suggestions to their search.

Offering personalized search with more relevant results, surfacing related images and videos related to the query are somewhat reminiscent of the efforts made by Google on its search offering.

But just like Google’s idea of search was very different from the search offered by web directories such as Lycos and Yahoo(s yhoo), Twitter too has to re-imagine the idea of search.

The answer to that question for Twitter is its “discover” function. Honestly, discover could use a lot of help and improvement. On our touch-centric and voice enabled devices of the future, the idea of search has to be less textual. So Twitter as a company needs to be making it easy for us to surface all the information.

This post was updated at 12:44p.m. to clarify that Twitter recently introduced expandable tweets, not embedded tweets.

18 Responses to “Twitter slowly unfolding its search ambitions”

  1. Administrator

    Om, features like related videos and images are distracting frosting while lack of results more than 5 days old is anywhere from sad to a fatal flaw: event hashtags are dead merely a week after an event.

    On the other hand, if you self-publish your tweets on your own domain and notify realtime updates with PubSubHubbub (PuSH) then Google’s “site:” site-specific search will return real-time and *comprehensive* results for your own tweets. That’s what I’d call “personalized search with more relevant results”.

    -Tantek (

    • They are young Adleine, when users want relevant and current feed about a topic, then #Hashtag to see what all the chatter is about. Very powerful, yet simple information stream!

  2. ronald

    Doesn’t twitter have to worry about trust(who’s who and whom do I trust, even if not follower), information value(how much value is added by any given tweet to any given context), how to identify context, pattern creation(to simplify pattern recognition). Fallout … discovery of related data in a given context by trusted providers.
    Just wondering.

    • Ronald

      I am not sure if you are making an observation or asking me a question. If it is the first, I think you do bring up some valid points for their search team to weigh in.

      • ronald

        Sorry, you are right observation.
        To get a group of people to solve an ‘unsolvable’ problem. I tend to ask questions on how to solve it without any details.

  3. Until I can search my own tweets archive for an earlier post, Twitter search remains horrible for me. And looking at how they sell archived tweets database for a price, I wonder if we would ever get that capability.