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Tech Report – Google adds real-time search feature

By Paul O'Reilly

Google yesterday unveiled its much-anticipated real-time search feature, which allows users to see additional information on their search topic directly as it's posted to the Web.   

Everything from news updates to Wikipedia additions to sports scores will all stream on to the actual results page for a Google query. Up until now it has taken a few minutes for updates to filter into Google's results and users had to refresh the page to see them.

Google recently struck formal deals with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to incorporate updates from those services as well, so Tweets and public social networking posts will also be included in the real-time updates.

Here's an example of how it works: A Google search for "Tiger Woods" generates a results page with 4 or 5 typical Google links. One for his official web site, one for his Wikipedia entry, and a couple of other links to local and national newspapers chronicling his much-publicized marital issues.

After that comes a scrolling box entitled "Latest results for Tiger Woods". This box updates every 4 or 5 seconds with real-time updates drawn from all over the web. They include a constant stream of serious and sardonic Tweets from Twitter users, blog commentaries and gossip items from sites like TMZ, as well as headlines and updates from news organizations from all over the world.

Although the real-time results were previously reaching Google search pages with only a few minutes delay, this was clearly seen as inadequate. "Information is being posted [to the web] at a pace we've never seen before, and in this environment, seconds matter," said Amit Singhal, a Google fellow and a spokesperson for the Silicon Valley giant.

Many people believe that real-time search will be most useful for breaking news events like earthquakes or terrorist attacks, where people want immediate updates without having to scan multiple sources.

Although watching news unfold from all over the Web can be a fascinating exercise, it's likely that some might tire of the constant irrelevant and irreverent Tweets that seem to accompany every news story. Expect Google to introduce optional filters at some future date to allow users to be more selective about the real-time updates they receive.

Google executives also introduced a number of other features that they hope will further consolidate the company's position as the market leader in search. They include Google Goggles, where people can use images to search for information; voice search, which will allow users to speak their queries; and an automated foreign language translation service.

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