It seems that even Google has fallen sway to the Twitterocalypse that is shattering preconceptions about social activity on the Web. I mean, who knew that people would not only broadcast their every move, but that other people would want to read about it?Who knew that microblogging would grow into something for everyone -- as a pool for market research, as sources for analysts and reporters, and even as a possible replacement for the emergency broadcast system.
Well, it turns out that Google co-founder Larry Page "always" knew, telling Loic LeMeur that people laughed at him when he talked about realtime search, but now they know the bitter truth. "Not everybody needs sub-second indexing but people are getting pretty excited about realtime," he said.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who not too long ago dismissed Twitter as a "poor man's e-mail system," also now admits that Twitter does a "great job" at doing realtime search. (By the way, do Page and Schmidt really say realtime as one word, just like New York Post gossip columnists talk about canoodling stars being "thisclose?")
Schmidt's comments will undoubtedly lead to more speculation that Google will acquire Twitter -- a notion Schmidt immediately tried to snuff in the cradle by saying that Google doesn't have to buy a company to work with it, since "the whole principle of the Web is people can talk to each other."
The "talk to each other" in Schmidt's comment referred to the possibility of Google negotiating a partnership with Twitter, but "talk to each other" is also the whole point about Twitter. It's not just about broadcasting -- it's also about listening, and if you take those two elements, what you get is a conversation. And conversation is the one thing you can't do on Google search.
Google is not about conversation -- it's about searching for information. Now, the wonderful thing about Twitter is the speed with which you can find certain kinds of information, but the awful thing about Twitter is the speed with which you can find certain kinds of misinformation.
So how will Google and Twitter resolve those philosophical differences?
I think Google will soon announce a deal allowing it to index Twitter -- it certainly has the firepower to do so -- but will display results on a separate page, like it does for News, Finance and other categories. This would allow users to decide for themselves whether they want to find out what people are saying about the iPhone right now, or news about the iPhone, or simply product information.
Nicholas Carr took a tough shot at Google today with regards to Google's arrogance -- and it is breathtaking. But Carr's point was that Google boasted about the speed of its search results (and the life-saving qualities of that speed) when that suited its corporate narrative, and then dumped the rules that created that speed when its business model changed. Its regard for the lives it was supposed to be saving took a back seat to financial imperatives.
Indexing Twitter will give Google back the speed it lost when it started serving graphical ads -- and then some. But Twitter searches are unlikely to provide solutions to life-threatening issues, nor will a deal to index Twitter do anything to diminish the sense that Google is turning out to be a company like any other, only much, much bigger.