Twitter: A Long Road to Travel in Search

June 19, 2012

Twitter has been a success in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and in the cheerful world of those steeped in real time information. The reality is that Twitter generates a great deal of information in relatively context free outputs. I think of those outputs as an opportunity, but the reality is that the volume of information and the challenge of finding a gem amidst the gravel is big one.

Twitter seems to be making a step forward. Online Media Daily’s “Twitter Hires LinkedIn Pro to Improve Real Time Search, Ads” informed us at Beyond Search that John Wang, a search and open source wizard, is joining the tweeters.

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What is missing? The information displayed via Twitter search is useful. Ads in context to the context free messages are not evident. Is this the gap which Twitter will move to fill? We think that for Twitter at this time, advertising revenue is more important than recall and precision.

The search challenge is not one which can be resolved overnight. The fix for the context data is not going to be easy. Did I mention the brevity of the tweets and the volume? If not, both will require thought and money to resolve. When content flows in high volume, the red ink is like the water behind one of those soil dams in the Netherlands. Vigilance and creativity are needed along with luck, money, and an infrastructure which can adapt to avoid a cost problem.

Our view is that better search (whatever that means) is a nice to have. The must have at Twitter will be advertising. However, our hope is that search is defined more in terms of making Twitter information useful. We will watch the evolution of http://search.twitter.com and the ads on the result pages.

Stephen E Arnold, June 19, 2012

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