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FAQ: How Twitter’s New Deal To Bring Tweets To Google Search Works



It’s official. Twitter and Google are once again partnered so that Google has full access to Twitter’s feed of tweets, commonly called the Twitter “firehose.” What’s this mean for how tweets appear in Google? How’s it different from the last deal? Our FAQ tries to anticipate your questions and give answers as best we know.

What’s today’s deal all about?

Twitter announced that it will be providing Google access to tweets from its service. Twitter confirmed this on its earnings call today but didn’t give any further details. The assumption is that this is for a full stream of tweets, since Google already has access to some tweets. Google itself gave us no comment about the deal, when asked.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said that nothing out of this will launch for “several months,” but it wasn’t clear if he meant changes on Google’s side or changes Twitter might make to better monetize Google traffic.

Can’t Google just crawl Twitter for tweets?

Google can and does. However, there are so many tweets that if Google tried to capture them all as they happened in a traditional search engine manner, by constantly visiting the site and “crawling” to find new ones, it would likely cripple Twitter with all of its requests.

As a result, Google has been finding some tweets — often especially popular ones — but not everything. And Google hasn’t been finding tweets as quickly as it or its users might like.

Twitter giving Google direct access to a feed of tweets makes it much easier for Google to have a comprehensive collection of all tweets and index them as they arrive.

That’s the whole “firehose” thing you hear about. Twitter is directing this stream of tweets — now over 6,000 per minute, from stats it gave out today — to Google (as it does with other partners like Bing).

Why does Google want Twitter’s tweets?

The goal of Google search is to have all the information someone might search for. Tweets are filled with great and often timely content. The tweets themselves should help Google’s search results be more relevant to its users. Data associated with the tweets might also help Google spot and better surface important content outside of Twitter.

Is Google paying for the tweets?

We don’t know. In the last deal, it did. This time, there’s a good chance it’s not paying much, given that Twitter itself is apparently coming to Google wanting more visibility in its search results.

Why does Twitter care about being in Google?

Just like most publishers, Twitter understands that Google can send it tons of free traffic — visitors that Twitter, in turn, can place ads in front of.

Last year, Twitter made a change to improve the ability for Google to gather more of its content. In turn, that lead to a 10-times increase of logged-out visitors to Twitter.

Partnering fully with Google will make it likely much more of Twitter’s relevant content will appear before Google visitors, sending Twitter lots of traffic that it can use to convert into new Twitter users or to show ads.

As Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said on today’s call, it’s about the eyeballs:

We’ve got the opportunity now to drive a lot of attention to and aggregate eyeballs, if you will, to these logged out experiences, topics and events that we plan on delivering on the front page of Twitter. And that’s one of the reasons this makes a lot more sense for us now.

Will Twitter get special treatment in Google?

If you mean will tweets magically outrank other type of content, almost certainly not. While Google itself isn’t answering questions about the deal, it would be difficult for it to promise better rankings without doing some type of disclosure. It also doesn’t make much sense. More likely, tweets will just continue to appear as they already do — when deemed relevant, within the regular web search listings.

No special Twitter search area at Google, either?

That’s very unlikely. Google had built an entire service called Google Real Time Search largely around Twitter’s information, in December 2009. But when the last deal with Twitter collapsed in July 2011, Google Real Time Search quickly died with it.

Suffice to say, the attitude from Google search execs I’ve spoken with since that time has been “never again,” in the sense that Google never wants to build another search tool around data it can’t depend on.

While the new deal will give Google a new sense of reassurance, I suspect it’ll still be wary enough not to construct a dedicated Twitter search area nor necessarily spotlight tweets on their own within regular search results. But to the degree Google already highlights social content in search, Twitter might get easier inclusion that way.

Did the collapse of the last deal mean Google had no tweets at all?

No. OK, very briefly Twitter did make changes that cut Google off from gathering its data after the formal deal ended. That seemed likely an accidental mistake that was quickly corrected.

Instead, ending the deal simply meant Google couldn’t get all the tweets it had gathered before, nor in as timely manner. But it always had some tweets being included.

As for why the last deal ended in 2011, that’s never been publicly explained by either side. The WSJ has a fresh take today citing unnamed sources that puts it down to Twitter not feeling it was driving traffic, revenue or new users plus concerns that Google might use Twitter data to improve its rival Google+ service.

Suffice to say, Twitter and Google didn’t agree on the value of continuing it. How times have changed now.

What About Google+?

This is probably neutral for Google+. I don’t see it as a sign that Google will abandon Google+, but that’s also because Google+ has largely felt in maintenance mode since a change in leadership last year.

Google seems to be happy to maintain the service there, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as aggressive in promoting it and trying to integrate it into Google as in the past.

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