December 7, 2009

Free report: ‘Real-Time Search and Discovery of the Social Web’

Google, Microsoft scramble to incorporate real-time search into their results

David SparkCall it good or bad timing, but I just happened to finish a report on real-time search on the day that Google announced its rollout of its integrated real-time search results within its general search results. After some last-minute edits, the report is now done and I’m making it available to everyone for free. It’s titled, “Real-Time Search and Discovery of the Social Web.” You can download the PDF, or view it as a slide show on Scribd.

Given that I’m makiing the report available free, I ask just one thing in return: feedback. Positive, negative, it’s all welcomed — just please make it constructive. I’m eagerly learning as much as I can about this subject. This is an area that I think is going to grow like crazy, and we’re only looking at a thumbnail’s worth of what is yet to come.

Here are some highlights from the report.

  • Real-time search could steal away as much as $40 billion from traditional search. Google and Microsoft’s announcement to incorporate real-time search results is a good first step to prevent losses.
  • The definition of real-time search is far more varied than the definition of traditional search. You’ll see more variations in what is considered a real-time search engine.
  • All real-time search engines are far from equal. The major reason is they don’t index the same content.
  • Real-time search engines that index only Twitter are missing up to 90 percent of the real-time web.
  • One exciting new aspect of real-time search is the creation of real-time programming that will be complementary and competitive with traditional programming (e.g. TV, radio, print and online).

Enjoy and let me know what you think. David

December 10th, 2009 CORRECTION: The article mentioned that real-time search engine Wowd required a plugin for its use. That is not true. Current report is updated to reflect that it’s not required.David Spark, a partner in, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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  • Fantastic write up David. Going to link back from my MediaPost column I am writing now on the implications of real time search for marketers.

  • Anna Hughes

    Hi David great post and report, it was really insightful. I have been debating with a team member on what the implications will be for optimising content. Will realtime search open the door to a new wave of black hat optimisation techniques and be real problem? Or due to the fact the content is currently streaming through from social media platforms that already regulate mis-use? would be really interested in your thoughts!

    • David Spark

      One of the aspects that came up in my interviews but we didn't get into heavily was spam. I make a mention of it in my report, the need to control spam in real time, but I don't go into depth. That could be another report in itself. And actually, the subjects of spam might actually have some interest in real-time information. Why are spammers spamming this stuff now?

  • It seems the real time search only takes up a minor part of Google and the search query page. Do you think this is strictly more for marketers? Because as a user I have no interest about real time Twitter/Facebook status searches.

    • David Spark

      You really have no interest in real-time status searches? You haven't been playing it around with it. It's actually immensely valuable and fascinating. If you're not interested because you don't want to know if everyone's eating a ham sandwich right now, I understand, but tweets and Facebook status updates actually give you real insight into the public interest right now. Start playing around with the real-time search engines and you'll see what I mean.

  • Good article David. I think that many of the start-ups that you mentioned replicate the traditional search experience: type keyword, see list of results. I think that in real-time three issues will be key: (1) search, navigation and discovery will tend to merge, (2) personalization will be a must and (3) an important social component will need to be incorporated. Tough work ahead !

    • David Spark

      These are very good points. But the “social” component is often all the real-time content since all of it is coming from some type of social media tool. What I think is going to happen is there will be more of a merger of the three different types of applications: real-time search, social media monitoring tools, and most importantly (and to your point) real-time interactivity tools such as Seesmic and Tweetdeck, but can do more than just Tweet at status updates.

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Looking forward to reading it. Congrats on its completion.

    • David Spark

      Thanks bud. Yes, it took a while to just get the last items finished. Do let me know what you think.

  • Dave Woodall

    David, nice! I don’t have any criticisms per se, just personal observations (predictions?) about monetizing the social/real-time web. With respect to the real-time web potentially accounting for up to 40% of all search activity and $40B in revenue, this assumes all 40% of that traffic is worth monetizing. Given the current “90/10” nature of the real-time web’s content you refer to, it is apparent that much of it is worthless (i.e. – unable to be monetized) noise. As Marketers move to the real-time web, they (and content providers) need to remember; it’s “Social” not “Commercial” Media. On the Social Web, there's an ultra-fine line between enhancing or intruding upon the user experience…and alienating consumers. Noise is noise regardless its source.
    Like you, I see massive up-side for the real-time web in entertainment content. Continued luck; I’ll be sure to look for more of your work.
    @Joe Marchese – Thanks for linking to the article.

  • David Spark

    That's a really good point. I guess I covered my basis by saying “up to $40 billion.” Although, the $40 billion is in reference to market valuation, not revenue the company is generating in a year. It's estimated that the entire market valuation of traditional search hovers around $100 billion. Using that logic, that's $1 billion for every 1%. And much of search is real-time search that Google and Microsoft weren't satisfying, and now to a degree are.