Thursday, May 07, 2009

Cool changes coming to Twitter Search

Twitter Search is going to get a lot more interesting soon, I learned tonight from Twitter's new VP of Operations, Santosh Jayaram. Until recently, Jayaram was VP of Search Quality for Google.

Speaking (with LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue) on a panel I was moderating, and later in a one-on-one discussion, Jayaram confirmed that Twitter Search, which currently searches only the text of Twitter posts, will soon begin to crawl the links included in tweets and begin to index the content of those pages.

This will make Twitter Search a much more complete index of what's happening in real time on the Web, and make it an even more credible competitor to Google Search for people who are looking for very timely content.

Twitter Search will also get a reputation ranking system soon, Jayaram told me. When you do a search on a "trending" topic (a topic that is so big it gets its own link in the sidebar), Twitter will take into account the reputation of the person who wrote each tweet and rank search results in part based on that.

Jayaram did not say precisely how reputation would be calculated; he indicated that engineers are still figuring that out. But this, again, makes Twitter Search more valuable. Currently, if you search for a hot topic on Twitter, the results may be swamped by retweets and low-value content from hundreds or thousands of other users. A ranking system will help a great deal. See Twitter search is broken and Three start-ups attack Twitter Search.

I'm looking forward to these changes.

Finally, a real-time search story from Jayaram, which he used to illustrate the immediacy of Twitter Search during the panel discussion: he told of being in the Twitter offices in San Francisco on March 30, when the Twitter engineers noticed that the word "earthquake" had suddenly started trending up. They didn't know where the earthquake was. Several seconds later, their building started to shake. The earthquake had been in Morgan Hill, 60 miles south of San Francisco, and the tweets about the shaker reached the office faster than the seismic waves themselves.

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