Twitter's VP of Operations, Santosh Jayaram, has come out and said that Twitter will soon start crawling and indexing links included in tweets. That's big.
Take a look at TinyURL's home page - they claim more than 222 million links have been shrunk for Twitter. That's without the host of other services out there like budurl, cli.gs, bit.ly and any number of others. That's an enormous index of content available to be crawled. And it's all been taking place in under three years.
Another interesting factor is the analytics data available from link shrinking services like budURL, bit.ly and cli.gs. In fact, in no small coincidence, Twitter's default link shrinker recently switched from TinyURL to bit.ly - meaning that if a user tweets a long link, bit.ly will automatically shrink it. Now, Twitter has access to all the analytics data from those links. It's easy to see those links with the highest number of clicks, those that have been forwarded the most, etc. You can bet that will figure in the rankings. It's also a good argument to start using bit.ly to shrink your links for Twitter. Jayaram also confirmed a reputation ranking system. Details are few, but it's conceivable that a user's number of followers, retweets and other social factors will be considered when ranking pages linked within Twitter.
That leads to the most compelling possibility - Web pages could be ranked according to user interest and relationships with other users. So, rather than relying on incoming links and - dare it be said, SEO - links to Web pages and their content could be ranked by actual user interest and how relevant that content is to you those in your Twitterverse (followers and those you follow). And another factor - how many times have you searched for something to get results from a page more than five years old? That could be far less of a problem with Twitter search. In essence, we're looking at a type of semantic search, often discussed as search's Holy Grail.
What does this mean to you? Get cracking on building your profile in Twitter. Not only your number of followers, but the quality of the links you tweet, and pay close attention to those links you retweet. It also means building a solid profile - making strong, meaningful and relevant connections.
This goes well beyond a "better" search for Twitter. It's hinting at a new, user-centric way to search the entire Web.