Twitter Search Will Be Powerful

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 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 @

4 comments about "Twitter Search Will Be Powerful".
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  1. Jonathan Hall from American Pop, May 19, 2009 at 3:53 p.m.

    Great blog. This similar to what I Tweeted on @AmericanPop yesterday about the very same thing. I live in LA, felt the tembler and the first thing I found online about the quake was a blogger on the UK newspaper The Telegraph talking about how he had just heard about the quake on Twitter. He had already written an article about the experience and published it before I even saw a mention on KNBC. Amazing.

  2. Lindsay Rose from imc2, May 19, 2009 at 3:57 p.m.

    I just ran into a similar situation today. I heard rumors that Patrick Swayze had passed away (the rumor was untrue). My Google search (and others) revealed nothing, but it was all over Twitter. I was impressed with the way so many of the Twitter users were responsible in reporting that these were rumors, the tweets I saw weren't just blasts like "Patrick Swayze is dead."

  3. Callie O farrell from The Really Simple Partnership, May 19, 2009 at 4:19 p.m.

    I suspect there are gradations of search:

    Real time trends, breaking news, what is being talked about now=Twitter.
    Wide and general = Google
    Computational/academic = WolframApha

    Twitter also works as a human search engine in so much as you can see the links people are linking to in tweets.

    To be fair to Google they are indexing deeper web.

    Try baidu, alexa, dogpile, mamma too!

    If Google is already indexing Twitter why buy it after being stung by the YouTube investment?

  4. Michael Senno from New York University, May 19, 2009 at 11:43 p.m.

    Do you want to rely on Twitter for journalism? This is where reputable public figures or media outlets can leverage twitter to reach an audience. In all honesty, if i hear about a quake, my first stop is and continues to be cnn and local news sites, then i think twitter. We may all choose Twitter, but most people are reluctant to rely on it for real news.

    It's search utility is powerful and full of potential, this is not the best application of it though. And the other issue is how your post keeps mentioning Twitter relying on its users. Google can take control. I have my doubts about relying on users to make something work a certain way - since everyone wants it a different way.

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