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The Rise of Social Search

00:00 on Wed, 27 May 2009 | Social Media | 0 Comments

When you're looking online for information or news about a current event, where do you go? Google usually disappoints in its ability to return fresh results when the events are happening *right now*. Even major news sites such as the BBC or CNN are not meeting our demand for virtually real-time updates, not to mention that many now distrust the media in general and would much prefer to gain insight from other members of the public who may have inside knowledge or an interesting point of view.

According to an article in the Guardian last week, Google have come out and admitted that Twitter is doing a better job of covering real-time events and information than the world's largest search engine. To those of us already embracing Twitter, this comes as no surprise - it has already become my default bookmark for finding out the latest goings on within the search industry, trending topics online and even current local and world news.

There are many examples of Twitter being at the forefront of providing updates on breaking news, to the extent that several news organisations have now specifically assigned journalists to the social website in order to gain the upper hand in coverage.

The problem search engines like Google face is providing this real-time information without wanting to restructure the fundamental way that search works. Under the current model, websites are crawled and indexed by search engines which by its nature means that information will be out of date, even in the case of large news sites which are indexed by Google many times an hour. Partnerships like the potential one between Twitter and Google are a good way of supplementing search results, and a great win for Google who are surely worried about losing visitors and thus revenue to these emerging social search alternatives.

But what about the longer term? Can search engines keep up with our voracious appetite for the very latest information about the most niche of topics? It's unlikely that these sort of problems can be solved by search engines without changing their technology fundamentally, and the possibility of Google snapping up a partnership with Twitter to at least 'buy in' a solution means that once again Yahoo and Microsoft are left with a less attractive offering.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I've used Twitter to ask local 'tweeps' about the cause of a large amount of emergency services activity around my city on a particular day, and to keep up to date on a bomb threat in my parent's town which had caused the main shopping street to be closed down. I got all the information I wanted from multiple sources, along with opinion and even pictures uploaded from a mobile phone. This is the power of social search, and is a level of 'personalised search' that local news websites cannot seem to provide yet, let alone international search giants.

 

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