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Are Search Results Already Old News?

In a previous post I discussed Google and Bing. Google does what it does so well that I think it unlikely that Bing (or any other Search Engine) will seriously compete with Google.

But what about things that Google doesn't do as well?

When you do a Google Search, Google of course does not search the entire internet for that query. Google searches its index of the internet, and the information that appears highest in your Search Results could be days or months out of date. For most searches that probably won't worry you too much. Although it can be frustrating waiting a number of days for Google's "spiders" to re-index your website after you make changes to it. But what if you're interested in finding something that wasn't on a webpage a few days ago? What if you're interested in finding information about an event that happened a few days ago? Or even a few hours ago? Or even a few minutes ago?

Google has added some additional search options to the sidebar to help resolve this. You now have the option of narrowing your search results to pages updated within a certain time frame, such as the past year, past month, or even past hour. However, since Google can only produce results for the pages it has already indexed, many of the results that you would get from a search for the past 24 hours wouldn't be as comprehensive as one you would get from the past week because Google hasn't crawled all the new pages yet. 

Increasingly, I have been turning to Twitter for certain kinds of real-time information.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of Twitter. Twitter claims to be a service dedicated to answering the question "What are you doing?", but users of Twitter know that its range goes far behind that.

I don't want to go into the ins and outs of how to use Twitter's search tools and #hashtags and @replies (if you'd like to learn more, just let us know and we'll be happy to send you an eBook all about Twitter). The constant stream of updates from all over the world on Twitter means that for certain questions (was that an earthquake?, have they announced the new iPhone yet?, what's happening in Libya?), answers are available on Twitter as things are occuring.

When you are relying on a network of peers for information, accuracy is a very real concern: Celebrities from Eddie Murphy to Justin Beiber have been reported as dead on twitter recently. Incorrect reports of celebrity death have frequently been circulated wildly after first appearing on twitter  - even causing erroneous headlines in international news. Celebrity death hoaxes aside, the immediacy and volume of Twitter make it a valuable tool for instantaneous information: something Google Search isn't all that great at.

In 2009, Bing added the ability to search Twitter right through their site. Twitter results are updated (on Bing) every 60 seconds - but as yet, Bing is only indexing high-profile Twitter users. I'm not convinced that mixing up tweets (which are 140-character long snippets) with other web search results is a great idea, or that you can get the full benefit of a Twitter search by only focussing on a few high-profile users. Google also had a similar agreement with Twitter for indexing tweets, but discontinued this practice after July of last year - effectively ending their highly touted real-time search. 

Don't think Bing continuing this functionality changes my mind on the Google vs Bing saga though - if it actually worked well, Google would just start doing it too.

You can follow Jack Marlow on Twitter.

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