Gradually, over the past decade, Google has compressed the gap between fresh indexing of the Web from months to mere minutes. On Monday the search giant upped the ante in time-sensitive search, saying that within a few days it will offer search results–including headlines, blogs, tweets, and feeds from Facebook and MySpace–that are just seconds old.
At the same press event, the company unveiled new search features for mobile devices. These include a prototype visual search technology, which allows snapshots of real objects, like signs and buildings, to be used as search “terms.” It also tweaked its geographic search–your GPS-derived position now causes Google to offer different search results based on location. For example: if you start a search with the letters “R” and “E” in Boston, the service will suggest various “Red Sox” search results, while the same two letters typed in San Francisco suggest the retailer REI.
However, Google clearly sees up-to-the-second search results as its most important new offering. The search giant has recently come under unfamiliar pressure from Microsoft’s revamped search engine, Bing, which also provides some “real-time” search results.
“This is the first time, ever, that any search engine has integrated the real-time Web into the results page,” Amit Singhal, a Google fellow, said yesterday in making the announcement.
“Information is being created at a pace I have never seen before–and in this environment, seconds matter,” Singhal added. “I cannot emphasize enough–relevance is the foundation of this product. It is relevance, relevance, relevance. There is so much info being generated out there, getting you relevant information is the key to success of a product like this.”
The arrival of Twitter, in particular, has focused the attention of many Internet companies on the value of real-time information on the Web. By tapping into customers’ interest in time-sensitive information–from Twitter posts to breaking news stories–Google stands to build its audience and, ultimately, its advertising revenues.