The real time web is showing up just about everywhere these days. Regardless of whether there is any merit of Google, and Bing, incorporating Twitter into their search results it appears that Google could be making a major shift in how it indexes the freshest content available.
According to an excellent post by Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb, and a post on Google’s Webmaster Central blog, Google is targeting RSS and Atom feeds in order to identify fresh content on web pages. Granted this isn’t the real time search that proponents commonly talk about but it is definitely a much faster method that previously used.
It was also hinted at in the Google blog post that t hey are seriously looking at how to use new protocols like PubSubHubbub (try saying that 10 times fast) in order to speed things up even faster. The protocol enables near instant notification of any changes that have been made to a web page which means Google search would be able to index the new information pretty well the moment it is published to the web.
Sarah does point out one major problem that Google is going to have to overcome as they move more in the direction of real time search results – the ranking of those results.
That, of course, would lead to a whole new series of challenges for the search engine – most notably, how to rank the real-time results? Given that Google’s search algorithm has been built on top of the concept of PageRank, a way to determine the relevance of a website by what other sites link to it, ranking search results that are so fresh that there is an absence of links could prove a difficult feat.
Sarah does point out that this is something that Google is working on but it will be interesting to see what kind of effect changes to the PageRank algorithm will have on web sites when it comes to their PageRank value.
The other thing that this shift could have a big impact on is how new content is delivered in RSS feeds. Right now a large number of the popular blogs and online versions of newspapers deliver only a partial text feed. This means that unless they seriously consider switching to a full text feed they could lose out drastically in search results.
I will say that it is this aspect of the real time web and search that I find much more interesting to watch instead of the pseudo-search results of things like Twitter.