Bing's Fake Twitter Glitter - InformationWeek

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Commentary
7/2/2009
10:20 AM
Michael Hickins
Michael Hickins
Commentary
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Bing's Fake Twitter Glitter

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether we really need real-time search, I'd like to dispense with the notion that Bing is now providing real-time search of anything relevant on Twitter.

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether we really need real-time search, I'd like to dispense with the notion that Bing is now providing real-time search of anything relevant on Twitter.Bing is simply allowing users to search the Tweets of a few thousand Twitterers, which you can do just as easily, and more efficiently, by using Twitter's internal search.

What might have been useful is if users would get Twitter results as a subset of overall search results, but that's not what Bing is offering, as Sean Suchter, Bing's general manager blogged:

We're not indexing all of Twitter at this time… just a small set of prominent and prolific Twitterers to start. We picked a few thousand people to start, based primarily on their follower count and volume of tweets.

How useful is this? Kara Swisher, one of the "small set" (as opposed to the "smart set?") followed by Bing, called it "a mission-accomplished effort to creep me out."

As you probably know, Kara, it isn't all about you. If someone wants to find out about the Iran elections, for instance, they're probably not wondering what Kara Swisher thinks about the Iran elections -- they're interested in news and information pertaining to the Iran elections from a variety of sources.

But Kara reports what Suchter told her about this as if his words were deep thoughts from the Oracle at Delphi, rather than a platitude-spewing flunky from the Redmond spin factory:

"Given Twitter is the big gorilla here and it is a really interesting frontier for search, we thought it was important to get something out there," he said. "It is also about us learning how users interact with it that will also be really interesting."
Hint: repeating "really interesting" doesn't make something "really interesting." Really interesting would be a search engine that crawled the Web faster and included search results by topic rather than by personality. There are a number of vendors like Collecta, Topsy and CrowdEye (the latter two search only Twitter) that do real-time search, but don't include static information (like Wikipedia pages or older news content).

No one is thus far including real-time search with traditional search.

The main issue with Bing's "interesting" approach is that real-time search serves almost no purpose without context. Taking Kara's Tweets outside the context of more permanent or older information is to denude them of meaning. Companies selling consumer goods or services have a real use for real-time search, but they certainly don't want to read Kara's take on their offering.

Whoever manages to integrate real-time search into traditional search will obviously emerge victorious and, if it isn't Google, will stand an actual chance of dethroning the champ -- not by chipping away at Google's primacy a percentage point at a time, but suddenly overtaking it because it's more consistently relevant.

Ironically, the best way to search Twitter results for information about Iran currently is on Google, which (if you search on the term [iran elections twitter] actually includes some Twitter results mixed in with results from blogs and traditional news sources. The same search terms on Bing only show news items and blog posts that refer to Twitter in the context of the Iran elections.

So far, I haven't seen any actual evidence that Bing is more than Microsoft Live repackaged, propelled by credulous reporters and pundits going along for the ride.

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