How Twitter Search Will Help Google, Microsoft Bing

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-28

How Twitter Search Will Help Google, Microsoft Bing

One week ago today on Oct. 21, Microsoft and Google both announced deals to index Twitter messages at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

Microsoft launched its Bing Twitter site for indexing tweets in real time. Not to be outdone, Google promised that Twitter content will be integrated into Google's search results page in a few months. Yahoo is allegedly working on real-time search with startup OneRiot. 

In response to a report on Bing's growing market share in which eWEEK suggested that indexing Twitter tweets is one way Microsoft hopes to help Bing gain search share, a reader commented: "Indexing Twitter feeds isn't going to grow search engine share. It's only going to make search more useful for the existing share of users."

Is that right? That got eWEEK thinking. Why would Microsoft pay Twitter for its content if it doesn't think that's the type of service or feature that will lure more users to search using Bing? eWEEK surveyed experts in the field and found the jury is still out on that question.

Search Engine Land search guru Danny Sullivan told eWEEK:

"I think Twitter search may help add some small amount to Bing, but I don't see it as somehow causing Bing to soar. I guess I feel Twitter isn't that killer, even though it is useful to have and offers some compelling data."

Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, added:

"Twitter in Bing makes it a better search engine, and they can use it to tweak overall Web results by taking Twitter data into context; e.g. if the link for a page is included in many tweets, it should show up higher in general search results-in real time."

eWEEK then spoke with Gerry Campbell, CEO of Collecta, a real-time search startup that has been surfacing Twitter tweets for months.

Collecta CEOs Views on Indexing Tweets

Campbell was an adviser to (and investor in) Summize, the real-time search engine Twitter acquired to serve as its platform for letting users find the microblog's content. So he knows a thing or two about what it means to search in real time.

eWEEK asked Campbell whether indexing Twitter content could help Google, which at 65 percent search share arguably doesn't need any more help, and Bing, which is hungry for market share. Campbell isn't sure, but he had some valid points:

"It's hard to say whether the pie will get bigger or not. If you go on Compete and add up all of these real-time sites, they don't make a blip on the scale of Bing or Google. So, the way I frame it is not whether they will end up with bigger share, but whether they end up with more engagement, and I think they end up with more engagement over time."

Campbell added that one of the reasons Google has gotten so dominant is its philosophy of indexing everything. Microsoft is following suit.

Everything includes Twitter tweets and other rapidly evolving content driven by social media, which means they (and Collecta and the raft of other real-time search startups) are on the right path. Campbell added:

"This is a natural progression of the game, but the opportunity in staying in the natural progression of the game ... is user engagement. But that's true for the big guys and the small guys."

No one can say for sure exactly how indexing Twitter content will lift Google or Microsoft, but consider this: Four years ago, no one would have predicted that Facebook would have 300 million users.

Facebook got there through tremendous user engagement, so if that is the direction search is headed-fueled by socially driven content-the future is bright for Bing, Google and the slew of smaller players helping users find what people are saying on the Web right now.

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