Goofing Around: Google and The Real-Time Web

I remember writing — and it wasn’t that long ago! — about how search engine indexing took several weeks. Four to six weeks to get your page in a search engine was considered pretty good! Content creators were counseled to be patient, and eventually, if they were decent and led a good life, their Web pages would be indexed by AltaVista.

Hmm… maybe it was rather long ago. Anyway, four to six weeks was narrowed to days, hours, minutes, and now it’s starting to look like four to six seconds; Google recently announced new features that turn Google into more of a real-time search engine. On the one hand, quick availability of information is good! On the other hand, this makes a very attractive platform for malware pushers! More about that in a few paragraphs.

It’s easy to see where the real time results show up. Do a search for Barack Obama. You’ll see in the middle of the page that there’s a scrolling table of results from news stories and Twitter. For other searches I found results from discussion boards and other

Sometimes I found that realtime results box in the middle of the search results, and sometimes I didn’t. For some results, the realtime box showed up at the top of the page underneath news results, and there was quite a bit of search result real estate taken before you even got to the regular Web results.

I noticed Google’s real-time search didn’t do well for general searches. Did you get that big snowstorm? Searching for snowstorm didn’t find real-time results on Thursday, though there was plenty of news and tweeting about it. I guess the speculation was too general. Saturday there was a real-time news section about it and as you might imagine plenty of
chatter. Wii and even Wii Fit had news and Web results but nothing in “real time,” at least in the initial search results. Perhaps Google is still tweaking what shows for real-time search and what doesn’t.

If you really want to focus on real-time and remove all the older results (older being pretty relative) you can choose the Options sidebar and the “latest” search results, which will get you real time results for all kinds of things, including snowstorms:

Stumped about what to search for? Wondering what people are talking about in real time? Google now has “hot topics” on Google Trends to show what people are talking about in real time. it’s on the front page of Google Trends.

While I like the idea of real-time search, and I appreciate having recently-generated content aggregated into one box (which itself constantly updates) I am concerned. It’s not so much about the potential for misinformation being quickly circulated; that’s going to happen anyway. It’s the fact that now it’s going to be easier to distribute “mal links” through platforms like Twitter and get them quickly picked up by Google. Twitter does not have the best security track record in the world, and now a exploited vulnerability on their end could mean massive malware exposure to Google’s audience.

What I do right now when I want real-time search results is search Google News, which I consider both safer and more credible than the general run of Web results. I’ll probably continue to rely on that, using Google’s Web real-time results in addition when I want to get eyewitness perspectives/updates.

Categories: News

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