Since it was founded three years ago, Twitter has quickly grown into a social phenomenon used by presidents and bloggers alike for breaking news, political protests, marketing and personal blogging, offering a unique real-time cross-section of today's society. In a recent announcement made by Google's VP of search products and user experience, Melissa Mayer, the search giant said it had reached an agreement with the microblogging service and would soon be able to integrate status updates with its standard search results.
The announcement came just hours after Microsoft announced non-exclusive deals with Twitter and Facebook to integrate search results into Bing, which has already resulted in a Twitter search that promises less spam and more useful information compared to Twitter's standard search.
Both Microsoft and Google had separately made efforts to acquire Twitter in the past, but the deals never came through. One of the reasons for this is that estimating the company's true value is proving challenging as Twitter is not turning a profit but hosts an incredible wealth of data that, if used correctly, could truly add a new dimension to Web searches.
Companies like Google and Microsoft have long realized the value of real-time, user-generated updates like the ones provided by Twitter: Google's Trends is reportedly growing more and more popular among users, to which the search giant has recently reacted by integrating hot trend results in standard search for popular queries.
Twitter counts 20.9 million users in September (up an impressive 18-fold from last year, according to marketing research firm ComScore) but, like other very popular sites such as YouTube, it still hasn't managed to capitalize on this on the financial side, which is why the company is considering generating revenue by displaying advertisements on the site and giving marketers deeper access to its data. In this perspective, the deals with Google and Microsoft are certainly a breath of fresh air for the company.
Judging from their statements, Microsoft and Google will try to use Twitter data to focus on two different aspects: while the integration with the Bing user experience is aimed at providing "all the latest chatter" to users including breaking news, gossip and sports talk, Google wants to exploit users' tweets for "real-time observation, say, snow conditions at your favorite ski resort."
Twitter integration will also probably play a big part in the upcoming Google Social Search, which is due to launch in a few weeks as a "Google Labs" project and will let users display results from people in their social networks. As for other applications — aggregation of user reviews, most discussed topics, etc. — we'll just have to wait and see.
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