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Google gets real-time, but is real actually good?

In yesterday’s massive Google product roll-out, the big drawcard was the release of real-time search into their standard search results.  Real-time search initially includes Twitter tweets, but will soon include Facebook status updates (from public profiles) and MySpace statuses, too.  As The Guardian quite rightly notes, the release of real-time search quashes talk about Twitter or Facebook becoming major challengers to Google’s search dominance:

Some critics have posited that websites like Facebook and Twitter could eventually rival Google, thanks to their ability to tap into millions of public messages being sent constantly between individuals. That threat comes in addition to more traditional search engines like Microsoft‘s Bing.com have threatened to forge exclusive deals with some content providers as a way to claw back market share. Instead, Google has acted to bring those services into the fold, though it would neither confirm nor deny whether there was a financial relationship behinds its links with social networking sites.

Indeed, in the New York Times, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone suggests that the relationship between Twitter and Google is an ideal partnership, with Google’s advanced search technologies making Twitter searching more meaningful to users:

Twitter makes a search tool available on its own site. But Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder, said that Google would be better able to serve up Tweets that are relevant to a particular user’s questions. “Were not good at relevancy right now, and they are,” he said. “More people will get more value out of Twitter because we are doing this with Google.”

Real-time search will appear in a live-updating box at the top of relevant search results; here’s Google’s real-time search video to explain:

Real-time search is being rolled out across the globe in the coming days, but to see it in action now, head over to Google Trends and click on any of the popular searches; the results will include real-time search results.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that just because social media statuses and tweets are being generated in ‘real-time’ it doesn’t necessarily make them worth reading. On any given topic, the speed with which Twitter fills up with spam tweets is pretty rapid, so this is a whole new spam arena, with the real prize being the top spots on Google’s most valuable real-estate: the main search pages.  More to the point, while other results are ranked in various ways, real-time just means it’s happening now, which is no indication of quality whatsoever.  Real-time is a whole new game in some ways, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  Naturally, for people who still haven’t thought through their privacy in terms of Twitter or Facebook should really think about it now; do you want your status updates appearing at the top of Google’s search results?  A question especially important when Google’s CEO is happy to state on the record: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Oh, and in another Google product launch which got a lot less attention, Google’s mobile phone OS, android, now has a really promising image recognition app: Google Goggles; just take a picture and let Google Goggles figure out what it is, and take you to an appropriate reference!  Goggles don’t do facial recognition, yet, but there’s a future worth thinking through, too!