Navigating the Real-Time Web

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A new style of search is emerging and it provides a radically different experience for the user.

By Evan Britton

Over the past year, a handful of real-time search engines have launched, with search results based on recent information. This type of information can be helpful to users who want to learn about events happening at that very moment. Furthermore, whereas traditional search engines revolve around websites, real-time search results are largely powered by the public and their current thoughts on any given topic.

There are several categories of search queries from which users can benefit via the real-time Web. For example, if you are a sports fan whose team has just lost a big game, a real-time search will allow you to see what other fans are saying right now about your team. Or, if a natural disaster occurs, a real-time search can display up-tothe- second news and information, and the thoughts of those affected by the disaster.

Businesses take notice
Twitter offers search functionality on its site to scour the real-time Web. In addition, many startups have launched search engines centered on Twitter and other real-time results.

Select companies are trying to differentiate themselves. Topsy received $15 million in funding on its way to establishing itself as an early leader. They tally up all links published on the real-time Web while also factoring in the authority of the source to generate search results. As a searcher, you can search for the most shared links based on hour, day, week or month.

TweetMeme experienced robust growth, much of which has come from the “retweet” button it allows other websites and blogs to implement for free. The button allows any Internet user to easily see the popularity of, and share the Web page they are currently viewing.

The bottom line
A major challenge for real-time search engines continues to be monetization. On the traditional Web, search traffic leads to profits as advertisers experience great conversions rates through pay-per-click (PPC). However, advertisers want to appear next to product-related searches and a major portion of real-time Web searches are information based. Because of this, targeting relevant advertisers who will pay a high cost-per-click (CPC) price is difficult for real-time Web companies.

Even as monetization solutions begin to roll out, the revenue per user that real-time Web companies will generate will not be on par with traditional search engines. For this reason, scale will be important. And real-time companies that over-capitalize and receive too high a valuation might have a difficult time living up to these valuations.

With Google and Bing recently announcing plans to include real-time results in their search results, real-time Web companies suddenly face big competition. These companies must stay focused on their core missions and continue to differentiate themselves. Anyone can have their voice heard on the real-time Web, but what makes it so powerful is also one of its biggest flaws. Spammers can easily infiltrate real-time search engines.

Moving forward, better filtering technology will be a must. Google and Bing will certainly be focused on filtering and those tools can potentially help other real-time companies. Authority may continue to have more influence on results which could help weed out much of the SPAM. At the same time, more sources from more sites will be looked at to compile realtime results which will enhance the pool of information.

While product searches today are better suited for traditional engines, potentially real-time Web engines will figure out a way to effectively let the public recommend a product. After all, users read reviews and comments about products all the time. One day, all of those reviews and products could be aggregated and filtered to generate accurate, real-time results for a product search

About the Author: Evan Britton is the founder of Sency (http://sency.com), a customizable, private labeled feed allowing websites and blogs to implement automatically updating, real-time results on their sites.


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3 comments

Chris Lang 01-20-2010 5:03 AM

You left out the real time champion, Google Wave.

Let me suggest you really nip this mistake in the bud. Ask any real marketer and he will tell you Facebook and Twitter do not convert.

Google's new social viral marketing tools are built for marketers, not Harvard alumni and your soon to be ex girlfriend. Google Friend Connect is now a mailing list and every piece of Google is now social.

So ask yourself, do you want your frineds list to be in Gmail or on Facebook? Look deeply into your Google Analytics stats and find out...

GregC 01-20-2010 10:22 AM

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of searches, along comes social search.  Ugh, so much to understand and so little time to get it!

Thanks for the update.

Peter A. Prestipino 01-21-2010 1:57 PM

I totally disagree that Facebook and Twitter don't convert. Our time on site from Twitter alone far surpasses traffic from natural listings and the Facebook ads we run outperform the big three pretty much every time. As far as Google Wave is concerned - it's still quite immature and a bit too complicated for most to grasp. G will shelve it in a year.

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