I landed in Los Angeles Sunday night after more than six hours of travel. When I got off the plane, I heard people at the airport talking about an earthquake that had happened earlier in the evening, but no one knew any details.
When I got in my taxi, I immediately went to Google on my BlackBerry and searched "earthquake LA" -- to which Google gave me instant access to all the world's information on earthquakes having to do with L.A. On the first page of results, I could find nothing to do with the earthquake that had hit only a couple of hours ago. Then I ran another search, this time on http://search.twitter.com. Same query, "earthquake LA," but with much different results. Now on my BlackBerry I was looking at people discussing the earthquake that had just happened.
Twitter helped me find information through search that Google was poorly equipped to provide. This is why I stand by my column "Why Google Will Buy Twitter And Make Billions."
The search results on Twitter were not only more informative right away, I got something else from Twitter I didn't from Google: people's reactions to the earthquake. People said things like "Just felt that earthquake in Hollywood, barely felt it at all." This was reassuring, since I live in West Hollywood. Of course, the results from Twitter included a lot of useless noise, but that is a problem that could be easily solved by advancing the Twitter search function and allowing people to help tag results.
What Twitter search needs
In order to become a more useful search tool, Twitter will need to improve the search filters it offers. For example, make it possible for me to run a Twitter search specific to a geographic area, or to run a search showing only results from news organizations using Twitter.
But improving Twitter search functionality won't solve the problem of noise. For that, Twitter will need to, yet again, lean on its users to improve the platforms usefulness. What I mean by "noise" is all the results in my Twitter search that said things like "whoa an earthquake just hit LA" or "did you feel that earthquake in LA.". Providing a digg-like functionality for Twitter users to help classify tweets would not only solve for this, it would make Twitter one of the most valuable search tools on the Internet overnight.
Imagine if people were able tag a tweet as "informative," "funny," "sad," etc. -- and of course, they could simply not tag the useless ones. Then people searching Twitter could filter their results. For example, I might have searched for "earthquake LA" and only tweets that people found informative. Then most likely my first result would have been the result I got halfway down the page, which told me the magnitude and epicenter of the recent earthquake in L.A., and the fact that it didn't seem to have caused any major damage.
Allowing users of Twitter to help refine Twitter search and offering up a few more filters could potentially make Twitter Search the place that organizes the world's information on what is happening right now and makes it accessible, right now. That would be very powerful.
What do you think Twitter search needs? Leave a comment or drop me a line on Twitter