If there was any doubt that real-time was becoming one of the biggest things in search they've been dispelled now that Google has entered the ring all guns blazing. The company held a “Search Event” to make several announcements, though it was scarce with the details beforehand, and it certainly delivered with the biggest move being the new real-time features integrated in the search engine at a level that no one else offers at the moment. Entries from Twitter, blogs, Facebook and other sources will show up and be updated in real time for relevant queries.
“[I]mmediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we'll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page,” Amit Singhal, Google Fellow (his actual title) wrote.
Google has had a form of 'real-time envy' for at least half a year now when the company acknowledged that it was behind in the field and that places like Twitter were doing a much better job at bringing up the freshest information. In the mean time, countless sites and services have popped up or added some sort of real-time component. Google though kept mostly to itself, only announcing a deal with Twitter a little over a month ago when Microsoft also revealed a similar agreement. At the time, Google said it would launch something soon and that day has come.
The feature, which is live now for some and will be rolled out to all English-language users in a few days, inserts real-time results, from a variety of sources, in a box above the regular results for the queries which would benefit from this. The results are continually updated and come in a matter of seconds after being published. Clicking on the “Latest Results” link above the box or selecting “Latest” from the Search Options sidebar will bring up an entire page with just the real-time results. These can be further refined by selecting only entries from microblogging platforms.
It should be interesting to see how this stacks up to other services, but Google has several big advantages from the start. For one, it has partnered with several big players for the content and second, it's the biggest search engine on the planet so the feature is going to get a lot of exposure. Whether or not it catches on with the mainstream audience and whether it will actually be useful rather than being a distraction are the questions right now, but we should know soon enough. Also part of the real-time extravaganza, Google is graduating Trends from the Labs section and is also adding “Hot Topics” to the tool. It should be interesting how this compares to Twitter Trends.