Google's latest move in real-time search, the launch of a dedicated page that aggregates of-the-moment information from Twitter and other sources, represents yet another escalation in the search-engine giant's competition against Microsoft's Bing.
With Google Realtime Search, typing in a term like "Halo: Reach" will result in a scroll of real-time Tweets about the game, alongside related "Top links" from YouTube and other Websites. A timeline at the top of the page allows you to follow those real-time updates into the past, in minute-by-minute increments. Tweets are organized from oldest to newest, helping users trace a Twitter conversation to its source.
Other real-time tools include the ability to narrow a search term by geography. "You can use geographic refinements to find updates and news near you, or in a region you specify," Dylan Casey, a product manager for Google, wrote in an Aug. 26 posting on the Official Google Blog. "So if you're traveling to Los Angeles this summer, you can check out tweets from Angelenos to get ideas for activities happening right where you are."
In addition, subscribers to Google Alerts now have the option to receive updates on a particular topic, with alerts whenever keywords associated with that topic appear on Twitter or other services. "Realtime Search and updates in Google Alerts are available globally in 40 languages," Casey wrote, "and the geographic refinements and conversations views are available in English, Japanese, Russian and Spanish."
The introduction of a dedicated Website marks the next step in Google's embracing of social networks and other real-time information providers. In December 2009, the search-engine giant added real-time search results aggregated from MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Those bits of real-time info appeared in a small, scrollable box on the search-results page.
By the time Google introduced that feature, real-time results were already on offer from niche search engines such as Collecta and Crowd Eye. Microsoft had also launched Bing Twitter, which enabled users to search Twitter content via Bing.
According to analysis firm comScore, Google held 65.8 percent of the U.S. search-engine market in July, outpacing Yahoo at 17.1 percent and Bing at 11 percent. Bing is on the verge of becoming a far more powerful competitor, however, now that it powers backend search on Yahoo's Web properties, the result of a search-and-advertising agreement signed by Yahoo and Microsoft in summer 2009.
Google and Bing have spent the past year locked in a pattern of mutual escalation, with each adding new rounds of features and refinements in response to the other. In that spirit, Google's additions to its real-time search will likely be matched by Bing in similar fashion.