Twitter advanced search is alive and on-site

Ronny Kerr · April 4, 2011 · Short URL:

Search for phrases, omit words, find people, tweets based on location, sentiment and more

One of most glaringly obvious features Twitter always lacked was an advanced search engine. The trademark of any site or service with massive stockpiles of data should be the ability to actually sift through all that data and find what you’re looking for. We can do it on Google for the Web, we can do it on Facebook for our friends and fan pages, and we should have already been able to do it on Twitter for tweets and people.

Well, advanced search on Twitter is finally here, and this is what it looks like:


Not only can you do the expected, like search for exact phrases or omit words, but you can also search for things said by, to, or about a particular user. There’s also a field to search for tweets near a certain location. And, at bottom, you can turn on switches for positive or negative sentiment, questions and/or retweets.

The truth is that you could always perform these more advanced searches (for example, by using quotation marks for exact phrases or a smiley face for a positive sentiment), but now more mainstream users will actually know about the feature since it will appear as a tip in all search results.

In addition to bringing advanced search front and center, Twitter says it has tweaked search a bit so that you’ll see more relevant users to follow in the sidebar, based on the subject in your keywords, not just the actual words:

For example, if you’re interested in hip hop, chances are that you’d like to follow hip hop artists. Searching for “hip hop” now surfaces accounts like @common and @questlove. (Previously, we typically showed accounts that have “hip hop” in the name.)

Just a few relatively minor changes like these can have a profound effect on the usability of the site.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.