Real-time Twitter search: cool, but no Google threat

In a recent blog post by industry veteran Dave Winer, he opines that Google is falling behind by not paying attention to the search opportunities opened up by Twitter and other microblogging services.  His point boils down to:

Once Twitter is delivering the news search that Google can’t, it will be way too late. This is probably what the Google management doesn’t understand because they aren’t using Twitter themselves.

C’mon, Dave.  Someone’s been drinking the Twitter Kool-Aid for too long now.  Twitter is not the answer to everything.  Let’s get off the more-plugged-in-than-thou soapbox and look at real value propositions.

First of all, “news search” is not something Google is focused on because that’s not how they make their money.  If someone else were to come along and make a much better product than Google News (and one might argue several companies already do), Google’s management and shareholders wouldn’t notice a thing. 

Second, I’m doubtful (as is Valleywag) that Twitter could ever provide a usable news service.  When major events happen, there may be witnesses who are Twittering what they see, but how can Twitter parse the useful, factual tweets out of the millions of related tweets? It’s an impossible task.  The best Twitter can do is say “a plane crashed”, but they’d be hard pressed to say which tweets are authoritative.  (Google Trends tracks memes like this already.)  

To complicate Twitter’s job, spammers are already exploiting Twitter hashtags, so as soon as that #planecrash meme gets momentum and people start watching live Twitter search results for details, I guarantee a good number of those posts will look like “#planecrash Buy viagra here!”

Lastly, news searches probably account for less than 5% of searches across the web, and “real-time” news search surely represents far less than 1%.  Google can afford to ignore this segment because they rock at the other 99% of searches, typically for more mundane topics like “cheap digital camera” or “paris hilton nude pics.”  And those digital camera searches will monetize much more effectively than news about the latest plane crash.  

Twitter is a great trend- or meme-tracking tool, but it will never be a real news source, and even if it is, Google won’t care, nor should they.



  1. Good points, Joel.