Google's sudden abandonment of real-time search leaves the space wide open to eager competitors

Posted by Smedio .com

This article was written by Douglas Idugboe and originally published on Smedio.

Google’s popular Realtime search feature quietly vanished during the long Fourth of July weekend. Why? The search engine’s two-year deal with Twitter providing it with access to Twitter’s live “firehose” of public tweets expired on June 2. Rather than continue offering pointless trending social media results minus instant tweets from the world’s most popular micro-blogging service, Google removed Realtime search entirely. Google at first attributed the removal to vague plans to retool the service and incorporate Google+ into the mix. And it dubbed the disabling of Realtime search results “temporary.” But Google later admitted to Search Engine Land that its instant search tools were pulled after its short-term deal with Twitter was not renewed.

What is Google Thinking?

Does Google really believe it can offer a relevant real-time search feature without offering users indexed up-to-the-minute data from Twitter’s firehose? Twitter now boasts 200 million tweets per day, and the five-year old company’s audience is on track to increase in the months and years to come. This massive reach can’t possible be duplicated by Google+ in the near future.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s search engine Bing still has a deal in place with Twitter. Bing’s Social search feature continues to pump out instant search results from Twitter’s firehose, as well as from Facebook. Score one for Bing. Google’s shuttering of its instant search feature also affords a huge advantage to the social media search engine Topsy.

Are Google and Twitter in a Standoff?

Although Google’s Realtime instant search feature indexed a handful of other social network platforms, including Facebook, FriendFinder, MySpace, Jaiku and Quora, there’s no question the instant results from Twitter led the pack. Twitter provides a collective global real-time reaction to world events, unlike any other social media service. And it’s not likely to be replaced by Google+, the search engine giant’s beta trial of its very own social networking platform modeled after Facebook.

Does Google plan to renegotiate a deal with Twitter? It’s not clear. Google told Search Engine Land that it would be amenable to “exploring other collaborations” with Twitter.

Google’s Murky Vision

Google first addressed the shuttering of its instant search tool via a murky tweet: “We’ve temporarily disabled google.com/realtime. We’re exploring how to incorporate Google+ into this functionality, so stay tuned.”

After Search Engine Land discovered that Google’s contract with Twitter, giving it access to the invaluable public Twitter feed, had expired, Google released a more lengthy statement, acknowledging the expiration of the deal and referencing a “vision” for Google+.

“ While we will not have access to this special feed from Twitter, information on Twitter that’s publicly available to our crawlers will still be searchable and discoverable on Google,” the company said Monday. “Our vision is to have google.com/realtime include Google+ information along with other realtime data from a variety of sources,” Google told Search Engine Land.

Since Google + is still operating as an invite-only trial platform, and the social media service doesn’t even have a search feature as yet, Google’s “vision” for the return of a workable instant search tool based on Google+ doesn’t seem plausible.

Twitter Playing Coy

Twitter was quick to point out that its public Twitter feed is still indexed by Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Yahoo and others. So, who needs Google, right?

A spokesperson for Twitter told Search Engine Land, “Since October 2009, Twitter has provided Google with the stream of public tweets for incorporation into their real-time search product and other uses. That agreement has now expired. We continue to provide this type of access to Microsoft, Yahoo!, NTT Docomo, Yahoo! Japan and dozens of other smaller developers.”

Twitter softened its stance by noting that the micro-blogging phenomenon harbors no ill will towards Google. “And, we work with Google in many other ways,” added Twitter.

Google and Twitter Need Each Other

Without Google, Twitter loses the valuable archival indexing of its public tweets from a search engine that controls about 65 percent of the market, compared to Bing’s 30 percent. Moreover, Google archived public tweets that were older than three days. Bing does not. And Twitter’s search feature is limited at this point. So, that leaves the field wide open for Topsy, a real-time social media search engine “powered by the largest searchable index of Twitter data.”

Bing and Topsy Poised to Steal Market Share from Google

Google’s miscalculation could result in the further loss of market share. Recent studies conducted by comScore and Experian Hitwise show that Bing continues to grow, stealing market share from Google, while Google’s dominance is shrinking. Google’s market share sunk 10 percent in just the past year. During the same time, Bing grew by 6 percent and Yahoo, which is now powered by Bing, grabbed an additional 5 percent of the market. Now, Google is voluntarily handing Bing a big advantage in real-time search results and paving the way for the growth of the upstart real-time search engine Topsy. In 2009, Google hailed its launch of Realtime search and its collaboration with Twitter, as  “important steps in the evolution of information access.” Two-years later Google is devolving.

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