Google scours forums for search results

Ronny Kerr · October 1, 2009 · Short URL:

Approaching a more user-generated results page, Google adds dimension with forum searches

Sometimes, as odd as it might seem, the answer to the question we've asked just doesn't have its own dedicated page on the Internet. These are the searches that are too specific for Wikipedia pages or, perhaps, too personalized to warrant one single answer.

In these cases, when talking to someone with actual experience in the matter can prove incredibly useful, traditional search engines might normally falter, attempting to offer various avenues that may or may not lead to the personalized answer we're looking for.

Fortunately for us, Google updated its engine last night in an attempt to address this precise issue, by adding search of forum posts to its search method. By providing results that lead to multiple discussions on the Internet, Google hopes to add a more human aspect to the search results it returns.

In its announcement concerning the upgrade, Google says the changes will mostly affect Web sites that have large volumes of discussions (related to your search) already taking place on the site. Google will now present those discussions as results in a tier below the overarching site hosting the conversation threads.

Google presents getting from rome to florence as a possible search of the type that could benefit from user input on forums.

Google forums search

With rising tensions between the social media monoliths, Facebook and Twitter, this update could be seen as an effort on Google's part to improve upon its own structure by increasing human-to-human interaction. Whether this is true or not, it's clear that the search giant wants to maintain its dominance over the other searches, most importantly Bing.

"We hope this feature gives you a deeper view into the relevant content available on sites throughout the web — even when that content spans multiple pages or discussions," says Johanna Wright, Director of Product Management at Google. "At the same time, the main search results are diverse as always — so if you can't pinpoint a useful comment there's a list of relevant sites there to help."

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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.


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