Not So Ancient History: Real-Time Search Algorithm

It’s easy to take for granted the vast amounts of up-to-date, real-time information we have at our fingertips as we wrap up 2018, and look ahead to 2019 and beyond.

The hottest news is delivered to our smartphones and devices at record-breaking speed, so nobody’s left behind.

Whether you’re lazing on a beach in Bali, or hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas, you’ll hear about new royal babies, the latest Apple releases, or the right way to grate cheese.

Google’s answer to filtering and providing us with the latest news came in its real-time search algorithm. And then it mysteriously disappeared. What happened to it and why? Here’s what you need to know about Google’s real-time search.

Google’s Real-Time Search Algorithm: The Launch

Almost 10 years ago on December 7th, 2009, Google announced that its real-time search algorithm was alive and kicking. With real-time search, you’d not only find information related to your current search, but it’d be the latest info too.

Added to the long list of Google algorithm updates, these kinds of real-time Google updates to their algorithm were perfect if you were following breaking news stories, and wanted to know the latest chatter on your chosen subject.

Things like polling results, elections, and new government policies were all available with live updates right there on your SERP (search engine results page). And if that felt like information overload, you could simply click ‘pause’ and give your brain a break.

How It Started

According to Google, they wanted to give users the freshest, up-to-date news relevant to a particular search. The algorithm would provide you with heaps of applicable information on a page without you having to trawl through to find it.

Not only would you be able to see content related to your preferred news story, but you’d also get to ‘listen’ to real-time conversations via social media feeds like Twitter and Friendfeed (remember them?).

Partnering with giants like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, the Google algorithm update claimed to filter out spammy information you wouldn’t want to read about. And that collaboration with Twitter was key to its success.

Some of the Features of Real-Time Search

This Google update had a few key features that Google was going to develop over time for a better and more comprehensive user experience.

It would not only feed users the information they wanted to know about, but it’d also enhance SEO (search engine optimization) capabilities for businesses. Let’s take a gander at some of the features of the real-time search algorithm.

Discover News Flying Under Your Radar

We all know what it’s like to type something into a search engine, only to get distracted by an unrelated story on your results page. Well, Google implemented a similar thing in its algorithm, though the distraction was a little more sophisticated than, ‘the right way to grate cheese’.

Say, for example, your 2010-self wanted to learn about the new season of American Idol. The Google real-time update might have also shown you the shocking news that Simon Cowell was leaving the show!

While American Idol will never be the same without the scowling judge, this example was a great way to illustrate Google’s dedication to keeping you in the loop.

View the ‘Latest Results’ Feed

For the absolute latest, hot-off-the-press news out there, Google also included a real-time toggle under its ‘Updates’ tab.

Users could tailor the search experience to show, for example, only Twitter and news reports. That way, they could filter out the constant barrage of newly-created web pages and other unwanted information.

So, what if you wanted to hear what your fellow American Idol viewers thought of Mr. Cowel’s departure, rather than the departure itself? Filter by tweets, and you’d be on your way to the latest gossip.

The ‘Hot Topics’ Feed

Added to the ‘Google Trends’ feature, ‘hot topics’ was an ear to the ground on what the majority of online content publishers were talking about. Now, you could join in the debate by finding out what those latest topics were.

And the greatest part about ‘hot topics’? It was totally baked into the algorithm – you didn’t have to do a thing. Just punch in a search, and you’d find out the hottest topics without raising a(nother) finger.

Only Relevant Content

We’ve said it before, but one of the main features that Google was intent on telling us about was that the content was relevant. You’d only see info that was of high quality and had a strong connection to your topic of interest.

For example, if the Google algorithm updates flagged a blog post or tweet as spam or low caliber, then it’d downgrade it and that tweet or post wouldn’t make the cut.

The Case of the Mysterious Disappearance

And then, one day in 2011 (the 3rd July, to be precise), Google real-time search just… disappeared. It vanished. Into thin air.

Users typing in www.google.com/realtime were presented with a 404 error page, and the ‘Realtime’ feature in the sidebar had also vanished.

Google told us that it was only temporarily unavailable due to the Google+ launch, but to many of the search engine’s users, something smelled fishy.

What Happened to Google’s Real-Time Search?

So, what happened? Twitter, that’s what happened.

Remember we said earlier that Twitter was key to Google’s real-time success back in 2009? Well, in July 2011, the agreement between Google and Twitter expired.

At first, real-time fans thought this would only result in temporary downtime – everyone needs in on the global conversation, right? What would happen now?

Well, apparently… nothing. Even though many speculated that future collaborations were in the offing, it seems that Twitter opted out of using Google’s capabilities, and vice versa.

Instead, Google began to rely on its Google+ feature to keep users up to date and in the loop, and the real-time search partnership was no more.

The Takeaway

Added to the list of Google updates, the real-time search algorithm was a great idea and made a mark on the Google history timeline. After all, who didn’t want up-to-date news, and to feast on information they never knew they were interested in?

Still, things change and deals expire, and Google and Twitter decided to part ways two years after the algorithm had been rolled out. The takeaway? You win some, you lose some.

Still, Google’s collaboration with Twitter shows us how important social media is to the business world. If you want to learn more about how social media can work for you, check out how a social media manager can help.