Google dabbles with real time search

The phenomenon of Twitter in 2009 has really opened the debate on whether real time search should, or could, be introduced within Google – or any other search engine for that matter. By modifying the query – the user is allowed to specify a set of parameters – which produces more specific results. Looking for a specific time frame result set has probably been one of the most ambitious tasks that Google user ever attempted. This blog post looks at comparing Google’s real time search results against Twitter.

When Google recently introduced the search options within their platform – many searchers were unaware that these options existed and allow you to limit your search. The impact of Twitter and real time search has made Google aware that they must introduce an accurate and competitive solution – to aid the ever growing search population.

It is possible to modify the querystring so that a searcher can specify fresh results within the past five seconds, one minute, sixty minutes – for example. This can be done by changing a parameter called QDR – Query Date Range – in the URL (its displayed as tbs=qdr:x) with the ‘x’ time frame. Time frame options currently only work on English versions of Google; so Google.com and Google.co.uk, but hopefully this option will be introduced within other version.

For example, to limit a search to the last ten minutes all you need to do is change the default value proposed for “The past 24 hours” – that appears as “d” – to an “n” and you’ll be limited to results from the last minute. Simply adding a numeric value behind that, you can increase the time frame. If you set it to “n5”, you’ll see results discovered in the last 5 minutes, or, if you are interested into seconds time frame simply use “s30”.

What makes real time search so special?

To be honest nothing! It mostly depends on you and your passion for a specific topic, or if you are particular interested in the last key fact that has happened (just because you are working on something particular) to this person or event. This is because – most probably – the search options are generally hidden away from the average user. The majority of web users don’t really care about what’s happened in a second or in minute, they just want to read something up to date.

Real Time search example

Suppose you are interested in the latest comical rant from US rapper Kanye West – the following search query will display search results for him in the last 30 minutes:

http://www.google.com/search?q=kanye%20west&output=search&tbs=qdr:n30&tbo=1

Once the query has been executed the following result is returned:

Google real time search 1

Google real time search 1

At first glance the Google news results look quite useful, however in order to obtain a direct comparison with Twitter – we must sort the result by date:

Google filter by date

Google filter by date

Once this has been selected – the following results are returned:

Google SERPs ordered by date

Google SERPs ordered by date

On first glance – although the results do not have the same visual impact as a normal search (i.e. the search query isn’t included within a number of titles tags) – they are extremely relevant as each entry focuses on the rapper’s conduct on stage, his eventual apology and the general reaction to his behaviour. We can then compare this to Twitter search:

Kanye West Twitter

Kanye West Twitter

Since I started writing this post – Twitter has informed me that 905 more results relevant to this initial search query have been posted – something Google does not offer. The four results included within the screenshot show one spam result, one user comment on current events and two useful Tweats including links to an apology by Kanye West and an interview with Jay Leno.

If Google made their real time search more prominent within their search platform – users are more likely to use such a service to check for the latest chatter and opinions from around the web on a specific topic. Google could always introduce another search button – which would enforce real time search.