The newest mantra to hit the web has to be real time search and everyone seems to be having their say on it in the last couple of days. Everyone from Robert Scoble; who says the real winner will be FriendFeed, to Kara Swisher seems to think that this new realm of search is going to be the next big thing. Big enough that the big boy on the block Google should really start practicing its shaking in the boots routine. Mind you Matt Cutts from Google did say on Twitter that "The real-time web is not the threat. Google can index data in seconds. The larger issue is when search engines can't see data.", but I think that is more bravado talking than anything else. After all Google is far more interested in the depth of the web that can be indexed rather than the current events, because the reality is that current events – the now – is harder; if not almost impossible, to monetize for advertisers.
As we move further into the conversational web and the desire to know what is happening as it happens the ability to be able to search for that data – to find those hot conversation – begins to outweigh the reliance we have on old fashioned search results ala Google or any of the other search engines with an exception or two. The thing about conversational search is that it doesn't rely on algorithms to determine the value of the data – or to find it in the first place. Conversational search is the true people powered search and all Twitter is doing is providing a repository of the constantly updating – minute by minute or second by second – information. It is the people through things like Re-Tweet who are building a people powered Conversation Ranking that could prove to be even more powerful than Google's famous PageRank.
As Lew Moorman from Rackspace puts it
So Twitter has value as a niche search engine today. Who cares? No one really. But, there is more. Twitter is building a human powered search indexing engine. It is an engine that will build better results than any rules based index and has gotten millions of people super motivated to contribute for free every day (even though they don't know it).
While you can be assured that the folks at Google are going to be keeping close tabs on discussions about real-time search I don't things are quite a dire for them as some folks would like to make out. It might take them awhile in order to get a grasp on how best to incorporate real-time search into their current business but trust me they will. However as much as the big names in blogging are carrying on about Google needs to smarten up and get with this new search paradigm I think it is the other search engines out there that need to be even more worried.
Primarily of those I would suggest the one most at risk from Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook conversational search is Jason Calacanis' Mahalo. As we all know Jason has always billed Mahalo as a people powered search engine and while it has yet to gain any real traction in the typical search world it could be facing its biggest threat from conversational search. After all the basic idea behind Mahalo is exactly the same thing that is driving conversational search forward at an ever increasing rate – it's all people powered. Except that Mahalo is still following the typical search model and using people to create its search index whereas Twitter's conversational search index is being constantly updated in real-time. As well depending on how you conduct your search on Twitter; and even more so on FriendFeed, you can be drawing on a circle of trusted information. No other search engine even comes close to providing those two things.
We make a definite delineation when we talk about the web – there is the old web of static pages and advertising in your face, otherwise known as Web 1.0; and then there is everything after that which we refer to as Web 2.0. I think what we are seeing happening in search will end up having the same type of delineation. Search engines like Google and to lesser degree Microsoft and Yahoo will become known as Search 1.0 generation search. Conversational search will become known as Search 2.0 – the question right now is - who are the players in this new generation of search going to be?