The Real-Time Web Plays Catch-Up
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Everyone doesn't need to know what's happening right this minute -- it just seems that way. Twitter tweets abound, up-to-the-minute news tickers are the norm on TV and keeping your status message up to date has become, well, a status symbol.
Search giants like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) have long prided themselves on providing the latest search results, but there's a difference between "latest" and "real-time." Most search engines use some of form of page rank and indexing that takes other factors like relevancy and reputation into account. This may well yield recent information, but not, for example, up-to-the-minute (or more) posts from popular social networks.
"What we do is take stuff and shoot it out. That could be as fast as in half a second from when someone posts a blog on Word Press to getting it in front of users on the Web," boasts Gerry Campbell, CEO of Collecta, a new real-time search service that launched last week.
Campbell sited the term "Iran" as a good example of why you might want a "time-ranked" search engine like Collecta. "You can see blogs, Twitter posts, images from Flickr as events there unfold in real-time," he told InternetNews.com.
Interestingly, Campbell had got the real-time search bug as an adviser to a startup named Summize. Twitter acquired that company and its service became Twitter search. Even earlier, he says working at Reuters clued him in to the value of real-time financial information and how that idea might be expanded.
"In real-time trading, the traders need the most up-to-the-second information about trades and I got it in my head that the Web is going this way," he said.
The real-time Web bandwagon
Another company, OneRiot, has also been on the real-time Web bandwagon, focusing on social networks, book-marking sites and its own online panel of volunteer contributors. OneRiot uses a real-time Web index to rank what it calls "the pulse" of the Web.
"The ranking is critical because otherwise it's just a firehose of real-time content," Tobias Peggs, general manager of OneRiot, told InternetNews.com. "That can be very noisy and spam-filled. We've come up with a ranking algorithm for the real-time Web to find the most socially relevant ranking for your query."
OneRiot launched last fall and in March added a real-time social video service.
In a blog post last week, OneRiot explained how its pulse rank aims to find the most socially-relevant Web content related to each search query. "Think of it as Page Rank for the realtime Web," said the blog.
Pulse rank weighs a number of factors and calculates them all at the time of the search so results still come in milliseconds, according to Peggs.
One of those factors is "recency."
"To us, a blog published two minutes ago is possibly more important than one from two weeks ago, but we also look at domain name authority," said Peggs. "A blog read by two people, has a different weight than one in the New York Times, for example."
A big hunk of the search pie
However popular micro-blogs and other real-time services become, Web surfers certainly don't always need the absolute latest results in a search query. You might prefer the best, or mostly-highly referenced recipe for baking Apple pie, or research in particle physics than something on that topic posted in the last hour.
Peggs says industry estimates are that about 20 percent of Web searches are simply navigational queries, "Sony" or "Ben & Jerry's," for example. Another 40 percent are so-called long-tail searches like the apple pie recipe search.
"But the latest research I've seen, and the number is growing, is that 40 percent of Web users would be satisfied with real-time search results," says Peggs.
"When they type in 'Obama' or 'Britney' they expect to be shown what's going on right now."