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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Will Twitter Search Be the Next Wikipedia Search?

After checking out Bing's explanation of how it handles reference searches, it got me thinking how big of a role Wikipedia plays in search. Wikipedia entries are often among the top results in Google, and clearly they are a big part of Bing's strategy as well.

By this time next year, these are the only two search engines we're going to be talking about as far as who has how much market share. Yahoo of course will be using Bing to deliver its results, so essentially the big 3 will become the big 2.

If Twitter plays a significant role in the search market, than Wikipedia sure does as well, because it gets a lot more unique visitors than Twitter. In fact, at this point it gets more than Bing too, although that looks to be on pace to change pretty soon.

Twitter results are useful (can be at least) for timely information. Wikipedia results are useful for reference information. These are two very different niches, yet both important ones. I think it's fair to assume that Google drives a great many of those unique visitors to Wikipedia, and Bing will drive an increasingly large amount too. The question is how many people just go to Wikipedia and search?

Right now, we're assuming that people are and will just go to Twitter to search when they want to see what people are saying "right now" about something. That's why Twitter's homepage redesign is significant. Google and Bing don't have real real-time search offerings in place...yet.

Twitter Search is significant to the industry right now, but that significance could dwindle once Google and Microsoft start incorporating true real-time search into their own results. We don't know exactly how either search engine will handle this, but I think it's safe to assume that it's coming sooner or later. I tend to believe real-time results will eventually make their way into Google's Universal results for example.

Once that happens, Twitter Search may not be as important as it appears to be now. I liken it to the importance of Wikipedia search. You can search Wikipedia when you want, and it is helpful. Users will still be able to do the same with Twitter, but chances are, most will search Google or Bing in the future and get their Twitter results from there (based on relevancy), much like they get their Wikipedia results now.

What do you think?

Note: When I say that Twitter Search's significance could dwindle in the future, I mean with regards to how people search in general. I do think that Twitter Search will continue to be incredibly significant to Twitter itself, and that the new homepage redesign will highlight it and show the public some usefulness that they may not have seen before. More...

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