For months, many people have been saying that Google wouldn’t be able to compete with the rising pack of startups (and behemoths like Microsoft’s Bing) providing results that include tweets from Twitter, status updates from Facebook, and other real-time information.
Today, Google essentially quashed those claims. The search giant said it will be providing real-time search that draws not only on Twitter (with which it announced an earlier deal to get data feeds), Facebook and MySpace (with which it announced agreements today to index public updates) but also other Web sources. And it’s providing those results among the main search results, not just in a specialized section like Bing.
As many others have reported, Google’s demo at its big search event today was impressive. Items posted just seconds ago showed up on various searches, scrolling out on the screen in real time. (Apologies for not providing real-time liveblogging on the event at the Computer History Museum this morning; my netbook simply wouldn’t connect to the WiFi there.) Here’s a first look provided by Google:
Google’s real-time search isn’t perfect yet. As John Borthwick (backer of many real-time startups, including Twitter), noted in a tweet today, the user interface is messy. In fact, I believe Google VP Marissa Mayer said it’s likely the interface for real-time search will evolve.
Although real-time search is quite important, Danny Sullivan rightly notes that it’s probably not the key battleground in search for the next few years. That would be personalized search, which uses people’s location, previous searches, and other factors to provide search results tailored to each person’s inferred interests or intentions. Google thrust that into the forefront Friday by making personalized results the default.
Real-time results aren’ t only new feature Google announced today; in fact, others could prove more important. The company extended its voice search, which allows spoken phrases in English and Mandarin to produce search results, to Japanese. And it introduced an experimental service in its Google Labs called Google Goggles that lets you snap a photo of something and produce results based on matching with some 1 billion images in its index.
All this underscores a clear theme I heard when I wrote a recent story about Google’s continuing efforts to improve search. Google search leaders sounded supremely confident about their ability to stay ahead of rivals–so confident that it gave me pause and made me wonder if they were becoming overconfident. That’s still possible, but even if you might wish for more potent competitors, as many people do, it’s clear that Google is ceding little ground in its effort to stay on top in search.
Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow in charge of the core search ranking team, sought to cement that leadership when he said today, “Light can travel around the world in 1/10th of a second, and we won’t rest until the speed of light is the only barrier to getting good search results to you.” In other words, catch us if you can.