Real-Time Search: Twitter Licences Tweets To Google And Bing – How Big Will The Business Become?

This is a guest post by Stefan Wolpers. Stefan works as a start-up consultant in Berlin, Germany, and is founder and chairman of Twittwoch e.V., a non-profit organisation that furthers the use of social media in the corporate world. Follow him on Twitter @stefanw.

Real-Time Search: Twitter Licences Tweets To Google And Bing - How Big Will The Business Become?The tension was short-lived. In the end, first Microsoft announced two deals with Twitter and Facebook, just to be followed by Google. Real-time search was not just promoted by the two most important players in the search-market but also lifted to monetisation level.

(And apparently we are not talking peanuts here – as @AlleyInsider speculates – which in my opinion should also put an end to the endless discussions whether Twitter has a viable business model or not. See David L. Smith on the Harvard Business Publishing for in a recent analysis.)

What has changed since the closing of the deals?

Next to the traditional, Google-style search that crawls and indexes the Internet, there are two other types of searches that will become significantly more important in the near future when our use of the Internet gets more social and mobile: keyword-search in live-feeds of social networks and real-time search, the latter of which is now also making money.

Does this mean that all commentators share the same opinion on the business of real-time search? No. Feel free to pick the observation that suits you best:

  • Dave Winer believes that Google, Microsoft and Twitter are now in the news business, monetising content Twitter’s users provide for free: “Twitter got Google and Microsoft to pay for the content that the media industry should have been hosting instead of Twitter. […] And what business are they in now? I believe they’re in the news business. […] This isn’t tech anymore. This is what the Times and CNN should have become, what CBS, NBC and ABC should be.”
  • Miguel Helft of the New York Times is still not convinced that turning tweets into revenue is that easy: “For all the buzz, however, one question remains unanswered: How easily can real-time search turn into real cash?”
  • Marissa Mayer of Google isn’t the least bit concerned about that. On the contrary, she presents the latest innovation from the Google Labs on the Web 2.0 Summit 2009 – Social Search:

Suddenly, the Twitter deal appears nothing more than a mosaic stone of a far greater strategy. Part of that strategy is also the new Google GPS maps navigation for Android 2.0 that killed billions of US dollars in the stock market valuation of competing companies such as Garmin and TomTom.

Have a look at Google’s video of Maps Navigation and you will get an idea why:

(By the way, Social-Search by Google can already be tested here.)

  • Edo Segal fears the same and concludes, “For Twitter, Sharing Data With Google Would Be Suicide. […] By doing a deal that will give Google unfettered access to real-time results from Twitter in Google search, Twitter will effectively be giving up the fight and losing the war. […] For Twitter to give away the farm (its firehose of Tweets) at this stage is tantamount to suicide and can only be defined as a form of creative laziness.”

(Edo Segal is also one of the CrunchUp 2009 panellists – see below.)

  • Sean Parker – Managing Partner of Founder’s Fund – sees the future in network service, including Facebook and Twitter: “The New Era of the Network Service”. If that sounds too sober, Techcrunch offers a more dramatic head-line: “Rise of Facebook And Twitter, Fall Of Google Presentation.” (143 comments and counting)

In my eyes, the deals of last week document three major developments:

  • As a user, I’m interested in personally relevant information. And relevancy by this definition does not equal today’s ranking of search-results that are mainly derived from SEO-voodoo. The more my interest shifts to the “here” (location) and “now” (real-time) the less satisfying Google & Co. to date can serve my needs.
  • The classic search as we know it – the brute-force-approach with the “one size fit all mentality” – will therefore become less profitable, maybe much sooner than we might estimate now.
  • Google and Microsoft therefore had to ink a deal with Twitter – today’s most powerful content source of the real-time web.

All actual Internet trends worth keeping an eye on are located within the “Golden Triangle”, as Fred Wilson calls it: “The three current big megatrends in the web / tech sector are mobile, social, and real-time.”

Google has already internalised this – just think of the social search project or the free GPS map navigation for Android 2.0. Microsoft will have to counter, no matter the cost. It will be interesting to see when and how Steve Ballmer will play the Facebook trump he’s got hidden in his sleeve.

The Bottom Line

Currently, the technical, social and communicative basis is laid to satisfy the impatience derived from the “right here, right now” approach to Internet search. I need relevant information from a source I trust now. And trust is the beginning of everything, certainly for big business.

Background Information

Available information on real-time search and the larger topic of the real-time web is endless. I would like to suggest some sources to start with for those who like to gain a deeper insight into the topic.

First example is Wowd, a crowdsourcing-based real-time search-engine that David Berkowitz covered in a really short presentation for the Real-Time Search Panel of the OMMA Global conference:

(Note: 2 out of 3 still isn’t bad. However, there is also a long version of the Wowd whitepaper.)

In David’s blog post you’ll find much more information and links such as: “Real-Time Search Is Much Bigger Than Just Twitter” by Rob Garner.

“Misguided Notions: A Study of Value Creation in Real-Time Search” by Jonathan Mendez:

Also worth a look is the whitepaper provided by the OneRiot team: “The Inner Workings of a Real Time Search Engine”

The CrunchUp 2009 conference saw a good real-time search panel:

The most important notions of the panellists – i.e., Twitter would not be the only source for real-time search, but certainly a problematic one due to grade of spam and redundant information distributed by bots – is available on Techcrunch.

Last, but not least, I like to recommend the following three presentations:

a) Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley Technology Research, on the Web 2.0 Summit: “Economy + Internet-Trends”

(If you’re less interested in the state of the US economy jump directly to slide # 28.)

b) Louis Gray’s “Technology and the Real-Time Web: Blog World Expo 2009.”

c) Kathy E. Gills “Journalism, Blogging and the Real Time Web”: