Two Google news items from last week painted a clear picture of where Google is in real-time search and where it is going in the future.
The company revamped its real-time search capabilities and is testing instant search capabilities that update on the fly.
Announced Aug. 26, the real-time search upgrades move Twitter tweets and Facebook and MySpace updates on trending topics from Google's traditional search results pages to their own special Web page.
Users may still access real-time search data on Google's traditional search engine by clicking the "latest" link in the search filters located in the left-hand rail.
However, users will no longer see real-time results integrated with standard results. Now real-time results, along with geographic refinements, a "full conversation" feature and updates contents piped to Google Alerts, appear here on Google's Realtime search Web page.
Google has essentially followed Microsoft Bing's approach by creating a separate Web page with its own set of search filters, a move that IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds said is wise.
"Where before you might never be sure that real-time results would appear at all (depending on your query) and you had no way of controlling your view of real time results in the little scrolling window that Google randomly positioned in the page with regular Web page hits, now you have a full page of real time items and a full palette of filtering tools to help adjust the view to what you want to see.
"While Google has lost the integration between real time and regular search results with this redesign (falling back to the same approach as Bing, who never tried integrating the two), on balance the improvements far outweigh the disadvantages."
While Bing is a big rival here, a surfeit of startups such as Collecta, Crowdeye, and Twitter, which popularized the real-time search trend, explicitly search real-time content.
Meanwhile, Google watchers also observed in the wild instant search results on Google, which basically surfaces matches content to users' queries on the fly so that users don't have to click-through to results.
The results pages change according to the characters the searcher types into the search box so that Google literally updates the results while the searcher is typing.
It takes search suggestions to another level, providing a new dimension to real-time search that ups the efficiency quotient versus Bing, Yahoo and other major search providers.
Some search engine optimization experts don't view this as much of a value add for users.
Adam Bunn, head of SEO at search and social marketing agency Greenlight, questioned the feature's importance beyond the obvious feat of parallel processing power.
"I'm dubious about the value it adds, and think if anything, people will be confused and turned off by it. Consequently, however, Google is measuring success of this, the results probably won't be positive enough to warrant rolling this out to all."
Bunn argued the SERPS (search engine results pages) being dominated by one domain would obviously be big news if Google put this feature into full use, making brand searches that are dominated by one site all but pointless to target with SEO.
Noting that Google experiments with search features all the time, he believes the likelihood of Google rolling out either such a test is low.
Whether Google does or doesn't add instant search to its search engine repertoire, it's a sign that Google is trying to evolve the notion of real-time search.