Google improves real-time search engine

It now has its own Web page, as well as new features to filter and narrow results

Google's real-time search engine, which indexes and serves up status updates, messages and other public content from sites like Twitter and Facebook, now has its own Web address and contains new filtering capabilities.

Google started incorporating real-time links into its results pages in December. However, in order to only specifically see this type of result, users have had to deliberately click on the filtering options labeled "latest" and "updates" in the result page's left-hand column.

If a section labeled "Latest Updates" appears in the results page, users can also click on it and be taken to a page that only contains real-time results.

But now, this search engine, called Google Realtime, has its own Web page at http://www.google.com/realtime for users who are looking specifically for this type of search result, Google said Thursday.

If that page doesn't load for some people on Thursday, it's because Google is rolling it out progressively, but the engine can be tested at this staging site: http://www.google.com/realtime?esrch=RealtimeLaunch::Experiment.

Having a page for real-time search will be welcomed by users interested in this content, which at this point may not be mainstream users but rather people with more sophisticated needs and knowledge, said industry analyst Greg Sterling from Sterling Market Intelligence.

At the same time it will help Google to reduce the frequency with which the "Latest Updates" section appears on its standard results page, crowding it with its distracting scrolling list of links to posts on Twitter and elsewhere, Sterling said.

"There are a number of scenarios where people are interested in these updates, but in most common search situations it's not a practical tool for everyday use," Sterling said.

In addition to its new Web home, Google Realtime now features new options to filter and narrow results. For example, users can tell Google they only want to see results from a specific geographic location, or only results with images.

Another new feature is the ability to call up the entire thread, or conversation, that a particular Twitter post is part of, so that users can see it in context.

Google also has added search alerts for real-time results, so that users can be notified via e-mail whenever Google Realtime discovers a specific query term while crawling its real-time sources.

For Google's search team, it's important to offer users the ability to search for real-time content, given the massive popularity that social-networking and microblogging sites have gained in recent years.

Most of the real-time fodder for search engines comes in the form of status updates, popularized by Twitter, where people, companies and public figures post short text messages about a variety of topics and for a variety of purposes.

For example, individuals often comment about news events, companies promote their products and public figures communicate with their fans.

Still, Google and other search engines can only index content that users have determined is public, and the proportion of private and public content varies from site to site. For example, most Twitter posts are public, which isn't the case on Facebook.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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