There has been a lot written about the business side of the real time web. Many Internet companies have entered the space and established websites have implemented the real time web into their offerings. Also, millions of Internet users have joined social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn in an effort to connect with people and share pictures and experiences with friends. Now there are a ton of tools available to all Internet users allowing anyone to take advantage of and learn from the real time Web. These tools are free, and anyone can use them, regardless of whether they join a particular social networking site.
The most basic way to navigate the real time Web is through search. On the real time Web, people talk about whatever is on their minds. By using a real time Web search engine, you are able to get a window into people’s thoughts about any given topic in real time. Plus, since real time results are ranked with the most recent result coming first, a search today will reveal different information than a search tomorrow. So, real time search results can give you new information each day - even if you are searching for the same topic.
There are several real time search engines to choose from. A good place to start would be with Twitter’s engine. On the Twitter homepage, you can enter a search for any topic and instantly read the current chatter on that subject. Another search engine to check out is Sency (editors note: author's company). While Twitter displays both links and comments within each real time result, Sency separates this information, so that you can easily sort through either what’s being said right now or today’s most popular links for any given keyword.
Another interesting aspect of the real time Web is the ability to identify current trends. Since people are posting updates each minute, real time websites are able to highlight which topics are being mentioned the most right now. Many sites publish the top 10 or top 20 topics being mentioned this instant or over the past day. Often, these trends can clue you into breaking news before it becomes mainstream, because often the Internet community will be in the know about a story or event before major media outlets. You can see the current trends on the homepage of Twitter. Twitter shows you what is hot right now, today, and this week. For more detailed information about trends, you can visit What The Trend. (http://whatthetrend.com/) This website will list the current trends, and in a format similar to Wikipedia, it also allows any of its visitors to provide feedback as to why a particular topic is trending right now. This can be a great resource to learn about the reasons behind the hot topics on the Web.
In addition to trends, certain stories become popular on the real time Web very quickly. TweetMeme allows you to view the hottest stories right now that are being shared on Twitter. When you visit the homepage, you will see the most recent stories that are popular along with how many times each story has been shared. Many other websites and blogs will display how many times an article you are reading has been shared on the real time Web as well. This promotes the sharing of the article and tells users which stories on a given website or blog are attracting the most eyeballs. Another interesting resource to check out is Daily RT. One of the most popular functions of Twitter is the retweet function. When people retweet, they are taking what someone else posted on Twitter and rebroadcasting it to their Twitter page. The more a particular message gets retweeted, the more popular it is. Daily RT allows you to search and view the most popular retweeted messages on the web. This can be a very interesting way to stay on top of the most popular topics being discussed.
All of these tools allow users to learn from the real time Web without signing up to participate in any of the services. Each of these tools is free, and due to the real time nature of each, users can learn something new each time. As more and more users flock to social networks, and as these tools do an even better job of implementing and displaying real time information, these tools will turn out to be even better resources for Internet users. Learning to use these resources will help Web professionals take better advantage of the Internet.
About the Author: Evan Britton is the founder of real time search engine Sency.