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Real-Time Search and Social Media

In our Keeping Track of it All post, we explained how you can track the latest online developments by using an aggregator. We’ll follow up here with an explanation of real-time search and social media and how you can use it.

The fundamental change in paradigm for real-time online might be described as viewing a stream instead of pages. Our first experiences with the web were related to print materials: we read pages and described them as such. But we’re entering an era of technology that’s more suited to the flow of the web and the way it delivers information. John Borthwick of Betaworks describes it as, “A stream. A real time, flowing, dynamic stream of information — that we as users and participants can dip in and out of and whether we participate in them or simply observe we are a part of this flow.”

This new real-time stream is changing the way social media, news outlets and search engines think about their business and how they serve you.

You may wonder how how much faster and more real-time search engines could be. While your search results may be found and displayed quickly, some of the information located by Google may be several months or even years old. A real-time search will reveal the very latest information on your subject, like a tweet about the car dealership you’re about to buy from, or an hour-old review of the new restaurant you're considering for dinner tonight.

Google’s leadership believes it’s very important to have the absolute latest information available online. In an interview with Loic Le Meur, founder of microblogging service Seesmic, Google founder Larry Page said, "I have always thought we needed to index the web every second to allow real time search. At first, my team laughed and did not believe me. With Twitter, now they know they have to do it. Not everybody needs sub-second indexing but people are getting pretty excited about realtime." Soon, real-timeliness may be as important to a Google search as search term relevance is.

So what does this mean for the casual user? At this moment you have an introduction of what real-time functionality offers. You don’t need to immediately master it or absorb it all, as Borthwick summarizes, “This isn’t an inbox we have to empty, or a page we have to get to the bottom of — its a flow of data that we can dip into at will but we can’t attempt to gain an all encompassing view of it.”

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