Lurking innocently on Google’s blog this afternoon, like many of their big announcements, was the bombshell that they have reached an agreement with Twitter to make all tweets searchable. This followed an earlier announcement at the Web 2.0 conference by Microsoft that Bing has also arranged to make tweets searchable.
This is not only a huge thing for Twitter, it is also well past due. Until now, Twitter really hasn’t been a first class web citizen, because you’re not really part of Web 2.0 until you’re searchable by Google (and, I suppose, Bing). Sure, you can read someone’s tweets from Twitter, or get a thread via a #tag, but the full text searching capabilities that make things really usable on the web, largely powered by Google, have been missing.
Making tweets searchable is a major usability improvement as well. Twitter handles are cute, but sometimes obscure as well. Perhaps people will start using more full names in their tweets in addition to @ references, which would let you find tweets about people without having to know what their handle happened to be.
It appears that Twitter is going out of their way not to play favorites in the search space, by cutting deals with both Microsoft and Google. Microsoft seems to be ahead of the game right now, since they have a live site up, whereas the announcement from Marissa Mayer of Google only hints at things to come over the next few months.
The Bing interface is interesting, it seems to be a hybrid of a web search engine and a twitter search. Typing in a term gets you back both the latest tweets that match the keywords, as well as web pages that more than one tweet share in common that also match the keywords. This is a tacit acknowledgement that a lot of the useful content of Twitter is found in the web pages that are linked from the Tweets.
If I had to guess, I’d say that Tweets will show up more traditionally on Google, as just another kind of search result, that can be narrowed in the same way that you can narrow results to just images or movies. I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that.