When you go to Google to find information about a particular topic, almost all of the results you get will be to material that has been published in the past. Whether the information was published two years ago, two months ago, or even two hours ago, it isn’t instant news. Online material such as blogging or even news articles are not real-time publishing, because there is at least some amount of delay time between when the material is written and when it appears online. This type of information may take at least a few minutes of research or thought, then it takes at least a minute to post, then it takes a certain amount of time to actually appear on the website where it’s been posted.
On the other hand, real-time publishing is material that appears online just moments after it was composed, with practically no delay. For example, if you take a picture with your cell phone and publish it immediately to Facebook or FriendFeed, it’s published in real time. If you think of something or see something interesting and type about it on Twitter, your tweet is shared with the world almost as soon as the thought occurred to you to type it. This type of information may be hard to find quickly, even though Google and other search engines can pick up content that has been published just minutes earlier. No matter how “fresh” the content is, Google can’t pick it up until after it is published, not mere moments after it was composed. So Google isn’t a real time search engine—not yet, anyway.
Microsoft recently announced that it had struck deals with both Twitter and Facebook to be able to index posts from those social networking sites and provide them in response to searches within Bing, the search engine Microsoft developed to compete with Google. To make the competition even fiercer, Microsoft recently launched a beta version of a dedicated Twitter search inside Bing. This service displays a tag cloud containing topics of trends on Twitter, along with clusters of links related to the most popular tweets. Google quickly followed Bing with an announcement that it was developing its own version of social network indexing. Although they are a couple of months away from finalizing their offering, Google Social Search will soon be launched and will offer up content that has been created by a user’s social network. For instance, if you search for “Superbowl,” the search results might include Facebook, Gmail, or FriendFeed posts from friends in your network who wrote something about the Superbowl.
The competition among search engines continues to heat up daily, with the major players scrambling to the be the first on the block to make search content as fresh and relevant as possible to as many people as possible. With the growing intensity focused on providing real time search capabilities, maybe Google and the others should get the medical community involved. No, maybe not—if they develop a way to link together the neural pathways of all the people in a friends network, there wouldn’t be any need for a search engine at all!