Is the real-time web a threat to Google search?

Is the Real-Time Web a threat to Google? Rackspace executive Lew Moorman sure thinks so.

He’s right. Fewer and fewer of my search behaviors have been on Google lately.

And last week friendfeed did something very important: made it a lot more possible to do powerful real-time web searches.

First, the problem with friendfeed is it is too geeky. But ignore that problem for a moment, because if they don’t get it right, or make it something that the mainstream wants, well, you’ll see the same kind of search show up on Facebook (which has been making moves lately to be much more open) or Twitter.

So, why is this stuff working?

Well, because it’s with your friends and THEIR behaviors. Your friends are a lot more trustworthy than anyone else. How do I know that? Because while I was in Davos George Colony, CEO of Forrester handed me the results of a report they did on Trust and they found that people you know are the most trusted. Far more than corporate or personal blogs. Yes, I know you don’t trust me that much. That’s OK. I don’t trust your blog much either. 🙂

But, if I know you (thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and friendfeed I have gotten to know thousands of you) I can build a much better recommendation engine.

Oh, and even more troubling for Google is that Facebook and friendfeed have a lot more metadata to study.

What is metadata? It is data about data. Well, in Google’s case, the metadata is the linking behavior of people in the web.

But look just on friendfeed. What’s the metadata there? Everytime I click “like,” something I’ve done more than 16,000 times now, I’m adding metadata. Everytime I add a comment, something I’ve done more than 8,000 times now, I’m adding metadata.

What other metadata is there? Well, they still can study linking behavior. I can link to my discussion of how cloud computing will change programmer behavior, for instance.

What else? Well, friendfeed knows how many of my friends also liked that item. They also know how many people clicked on that item (although they haven’t surfaced that information yet).

So, now, let’s look at search.

First, if I need to know who the best retailer is to buy, say, a Canon 5D Mark II, is it better to ask the people I know, like I did here on friendfeed, or go to Google and deal with the SEOs? Try doing that search over on Google. I did. Do you find a single retailer? I didn’t.

So, now, let’s get to friendfeed’s search.

Let’s do a search for anyone who has written about the Canon 5D MK II but lets constrain that to posts that have at least one like and at least four comments. Here’s the search. Note that the post I wrote just one minute ago is already in the results page. This is the real-time web.

Google won’t see that friendfeed item for hours and, even if Google’s spiders index it Google does not have enough metadata to study to let it do this kind of search.

Let’s keep going.

How is this for searching news? Well, right now Australia is burning. So, let’s search for “Australia fires” but lets constrain that search to anything that has five or more likes and five or more comments. Note the quality of the conversation that comes back.

How am I doing this? With friendfeed’s advanced search.

But it gets better than that.

How about we search for all Tweets that talk about the Australian Fires? We can do that.

“But can’t search.twitter.com do that better?” Well, yes, but can it also just show you all the Google Reader items people have shared? Like friendfeed can? No.

Can Google search show you all the Upcoming.org events that mention SXSW? No, but friendfeed search can.

Can you easily see all the YouTube videos that have the word Grammy in them? Probably over on YouTube you could do that. But can you now constrain the videos to the ones that have gotten some comments? With friendfeed you can.

But try doing THIS with Google: try finding everytime Dave Winer has commented on an item about netbooks. On friendfeed that’s easy. On Google? They don’t have the metadata to study.

Now, keep in mind that there aren’t many people on friendfeed yet. The numbers of comments there are not even close to enough to make all searches satisfying. But, look at friendfeed’s competitor Facebook. They have more than 150 million users already. What if Facebook were to get a search like friendfeeds?

Now do you start to see why I’m using Google less and less?

Lew Moorman is right.

Oh, and I got lots of answers to my Camera question before I was even done with writing this post.

UPDATE: you can search for “threats to Google” on friendfeed with this search. Fun to watch the comments come in!