July 25, 2011

Twitter Search Gets Modern Facelift, Index Still Limited

Since Twitter acquired Summize way back in 2008, the company's search engine has been one of the biggest question marks - for while use of the network has risen dramatically, the company has been unable to keep historical data beyond a few days. Recent enhancements, which Twitter termed personalization, help to separate quality updates from junk, but for the most part, the situation with the search engine remains the same. Today, the search engine saw flickers of life with a design revamp that brings the front-end of the engine in line with Twitter's newish Web interface. It also brings forth the "Promoted" search queries which the company is relying on for revenue.

Over two years ago, I talked about how Twitter's search engine became increasingly less useful over time thanks to a shrinking index and oddities, like being unable to find any tweets from specific users, or missing data, even when search operators were used. At the time, I asked if this would be a "temporary blip" which I hoped would "come back soon", but the company has prioritized other features. In the meantime, a deal with Google to provide realtime updates in their search results lapsed. So we're still stuck with the few days of results, just in a prettier format.

The new Twitter Search Front End, Including Top Trends by Your Geo

In addition to the cleaner look of Twitter search, the service also has a new example pop-up for search operators. While the practically ancient "flight :(" example held over from Summize remains, new are example searches including "from:alexiskold", "to:techcrunch" and "@mashable", nods to the GetGlue founder and top blogs who give Twitter a lot of press.

Also included? The optimistic operator: "superhero since:2010-12-27" which says it will return results "containing "superhero" and sent since date "2010-12-27" (year-month-day)". If you do run that query, you'll get responses dating back all the way to July 23, 2011. Where the rest of the 7 months' results are is anybody's guess.

Search Operator Options on the New Twitter Search

Despite one's social networking preferences, the data inside Twitter is extremely valuable. The company really could have a lead on being the realtime pulse of the planet. This makes prioritizing new tweets the most important, but I'd bet the world could benefit from more than a week's worth of content.

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