Updated: Google has also now announced it inked a deal with Twitter to integrate Tweets into search results
At the Web 2.0 conference today, Microsoft's Qi Lu confirmed his company has signed a strategic partnership with both Twitter and Facebook to include real-time updates into search results. The implications for both news and search are enormous.
Real-time data and information is the name of the game if you're in the world of search and news. It's not about what happened yesterday, or earlier today, or even an hour ago. The Web has created an insatiable desire for us to know what is happening now and social networks like Twitter and Facebook are the kings of the real-time world.
On Twitter and Facebook, people all over the world publish updates, links and information about what's happening around them. Anyone following those individuals gets an opportunity to have a real-time view of those updates. The power of real-time is powerful because, as anyone who is a member of Twitter or Facebook will tell you, they often already heard about something by the time the mainstream news picks it up.
To tap into that power, Microsoft announced it has inked a deal with both Facebook and Twitter to include real-time feeds from both sites in Microsoft Bing’s search results. The deal was announced at the Web 2.0 conference
today in San Francisco. The President of Microsoft’s Online Services Group, Qi Lu, said the first step includes a partnership with Twitter which is live at Bing.com/twitter
and Facebook will follow.
The new strategic deals are part of what Lu called "Bing Wave 2."
So what's the big deal? Including Facebook updates in search means you'll now be able to find out what your friend from college had for lunch via Bing, right? Perhaps. But more importantly than the eating habits of long-lost friends are the implications for the media.
Done right, a search engine that includes real-time updates from Facebook and Twitter has the potential to become the single most powerful news outlet in the world.
The partnership with Twitter has been floating for some time now. The addition of Facebook into this real-time mix makes it all the more interesting.
After Microsoft's announcement today, Google also said it struck a deal with Twitter to include Tweets in search results. No word yet on Facebook status updates being integrated into Google search results
"We believe that our search results and user experience will greatly benefit from the inclusion of this up-to-the-minute data, and we look forward to having a product that showcases how tweets can make search better in the coming months," said Marissa Mayer, Google's Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, in a blog post
While no financial details were released in either deal, Kara Swisher of the All Things Digital blog speculates
the deal likely includes payments of several millions of dollars for Facebook and Twitter and possible revenue-sharing deals for search as well.
So what's the big deal for search engines? Outside of menu updates, baby pictures and diatribes on what new gadget has infuriated someone because they can't get past page 3 in the manual is real information, usable information, and information that is newsworthy.
If Microsoft and Google were to integrate Facebook and Twitter into search results properly, search engines have the potential to take market share away from news organizations already struggling to draw in audiences.
Twitter has already won wide public praise
for its role in covering major news events such as protests inside Iran during that country's election earlier this year. News organizations all over the world began quoting Tweets on national newscasts and journalists were crawling the site in order to find sources and facts from inside the country. The site demonstrated the power of real-time updates from regions in the world where media blackouts grind news coverage to a halt, and showed that user-generated content can play a vital role in news coverage.
Twitter's audience of 54 million monthly users is smaller than Facebook's, but it's power and reach are vital to any discussion on the future of news coverage.
Facebook has a user base of more than 300 million people who post more than 45 million updates every day, the company claims
. Furthermore, those people can post news from anywhere in the world, from any mobile phone. If those updates could be focused on news and newsworthy events, Facebook could become a vital source for both readers and journalists to find information and people.
Until now, Facebook kept user information behind a password fence and most updates have been shared only among friends. Google does index status updates from individuals who allow it in their privacy settings, but it's not real-time data. In this partnership with Bing, Swisher's sources say not all Facebook updates will be shared but users can use a number of new tools to opt-in and share real-time data.
With online reputations playing an increasingly important role in Web junkies' lives, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a lot of people sharing that data. After all, many people who are totally plugged in online share most of their data and updates anyway. So if more people move to share data that eventually becomes visible through search, it presents a possible game-changer for news consumption.
As far as media goes, including real-time information could make search engines largest potential news organizations in the world because they would become the gatekeepers to all information, both archived and real-time, on the Web.
Furthermore, being able to tap-in to back-end data (if Facebook and Twitter allow it), would give search engines the power to sort search results based on real-time popularity and geo-locate updates to make them more relevant to you wherever you are in the world.
A search through Bing, Google or any other search engine that incorporates real-time data and geographical information from Twitter and Facebook could allow a user to find virtually anything: They would know what topics are popular or of growing significance in their area; they could find people around them who have been impacted by a news event; they could find more information from other parts of a city or country from related news events; and so on and so forth. All of this on top of results they are already looking for in search.
It would take some work to mine data for relevant information and get rid of the less relevant information, but it wouldn't be hard to quickly find out what topics are getting the most attention and then geo-locate updates so they can be organized into regions.
Indeed, anyone can currently go to Twitter and search through newsworthy topics. Where this becomes powerful is in the fact you wouldn't have to and people who are not yet a member of the powerful real-time service would be exposed only to updates relevant to their search. Adding Facebook to this mix makes it even more powerful.
Microsoft had previously experimented with integrating Tweets into search results, but a full-blown adoption of both Facebook and Twitter's user base could be a game-changer for search and news.
And if real-time data is syndicated through news portals such as Google News or MSN's news pages, those portals could overnight become massive real-time hubs of news from literally anywhere in the world.
As news consumption habits change, and more people go online to get coverage of what's happening around them, real-time data makes search engines far more timely than virtually any other medium. In fact, it presents the opportunity for search engines to be more timely than news websites themselves. And overnight, Twitter and Facebook could become the largest citizen journalist organizations in the world. That is, of course, if you don't already call them that.