When I heard via Shel Holz that Google is now indexing Twitter updates I got a bit excited for three reasons:
1. Were they going to show the total number of mentions? If so, we could count them as a crude index of popularity. Do a search for a term on Google and it gives you the number of hits. Number of hits roughly equates to popularity/ubiquity, and you can use that as a rule of thumb against similar searches. One term gets 10, another gets 1,000, and another gets 1,000,000. The million is probably more important. It’s a starting point.
2. Were they going to include RSS? Twitter searches do. As soon as RSS gets involved with real boolean searching, I get excited. I’m easily excited.
3. Would advertising be supported? If so, Twitter could get a slice and actually start making money.
The answer was ‘no’, ‘no’, and ‘no’.
So while I’m pleased that Twitter has shimmied into the mainstream, and might be getting somewhere towards a sustainable model, it’s not there yet. I cannot use the new feature for that ‘rule of thumb’ count; I cannot pull search results off into any other page/module/widget; and Twitter itself is close to making money but no cigar, because while we can see the results, we don’t get directed to anyone else paying for us to see them.
I can see why the answer is no to all of the above. The updates just come in so thick and fast. Try doing a search for Tiger Woods for example, and you’re in another man’s inner circle of hell – except it’s outer (ie shared by the world) and very, very fast. Too fast to count, to provide meaningful RSS updates, and certainly to provide contextually meaningful ads.
So we’re still left with a conundrum. How can we measure such fast, ethereal information, and more importantly, how can Twitter monetise it? Perhaps we need some kind of ‘speed’ counter. Not how many updates, but how fast. Maybe speed of information is the new reach.