The currently Google dominated search engine industry constantly evolves. We have seen new search engines appear, but have they really caused any impact on the industry? Let's take the example of the new and "revolutionary" search engine Cuil which had a huge buzz when launched over a year ago. Cuil was co-founded by several former employees of Google itself and was announced as THE search engine that will "destroy" Google. Well it seems that only a few months after the launch, Cuil was completely forgotten as you can see on the graph below taken from Google Insights for Search.
However, the biggest evolution to come, which has already started in fact, are real-time search engines. In this field, Twitter has taken a step ahead from all other networks. With over 10,000 tweets per minute (24/7), it is probably the best source to find what's being said "out there". From the beginning, Twitter Search allowed anyone to search all public messages written by its users. More recently, Twitter redesigned its homepage to fully integrate a search engine for visitors who aren't logged in, putting real-time search as one of its main services. Twitter APIs such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop have also integrated these search features letting users be constantly fed with the latest tweets.
The Facebook "What's on your mind?" status is very similar and brings the social network as an important and threatening competitor to Twitter. Last week, Facebook acquired Friendfeed in an unpredictable move meant to rival even more Twitter. For your information, Bing has already integrated real time results in its searches, Google will soon improve that as well (without mentioning the Google Wave meant to come out soon).
Real-time search engines, and at a broader level social media optimization, are undoubtedly great ways for brands to listen and watch what's being said about them or their products/services. Now if I've been writing this article, it's actually to introduce you to a video I had seen a couple years back on the TED website. This video is a presentation from Jonathan Haris about secret stories on the web. "Stories", because he was analyzing what people were saying, what feelings they were expressing and sharing on the Internet. "Secret", because his role is limited to observation. He is not interacting with those people; random people that he doesn't know. And yet, he is somehow entering their privacy and intimacy by reading their life.
Now you might wander what the relation between his work and real-time search engines are so I'll just leave you to watch the following video. That video struck me because what he was doing as an experiment and part of his work, is exactly what the web has become like, especially the battle between Twitter and Facebook and the related search engines. Also, don't forget his presentation dates back to 2007!
Enjoy the video and don't hesitate to comment below on your thoughts about real-time search engines and the way they will become (or not) a major aspect of the web. In my opinion, it will if not already.
Jonathan Harris: the Web's secret stories
TED talk posted in July 2007
And for the curious ones out there, here's another more recent presentation from Jonathan Harris about stories collected on the Internet including his "We feel Fine".
Jonathan Harris collects stories
TED talk posted in July 2008