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Twitter ups its search game: How it compares against G+ and Facebook's Open Graph

Ian Paul | Aug. 5, 2013
Beyond revamping its Windows 8 app, the self-styled information network upgraded the search capabilities on Twitter.com.

A second search for the newly announced Moto X smartphone, however, did not bring up any relevant 'People' results. Twitter suggested three "related" accounts: Racer X, a motocross account; X Games, an action sports event; and SpaceX, entrepreneur Elon Musk's rocket and spacecraft manufacturing company. Obviously, none of those accounts have anything to do with Motorola's smartphone, but they do all have the letter "X" in them.

Twitter searches seem to rely exclusively on keywords without any server-side intelligence used to tease out meaning or relationships between search terms and relevant accounts.

To be fair, applying intelligence to search results is a hard problem that Google, the most dominant search company in the world, has only begun to crack. So perhaps it's too early to expect Twitter to offer such an advanced feature in its search product.

Nevertheless, relevance in search results is becoming a big deal for social networks as the companies try to tease out practical uses for their services. Twitter, for example, is known as the go-to network for information on current events when the news is so fresh that it may not have even hit the major news sites yet. So, searches on Twitter should specialize in surfacing the latest tweets related to your query, with account suggestions used as a secondary factor.

Searching the graph
Facebook's new Graph Search helps guide your searches using plain-language phrases. You could use Graph Search, for example, to try and find friends or people nearby that like the Moto X, a local restaurant, or Showtime's hit show Dexter.

The question with Graph Search, however, is whether you really need to do these kinds of searches at all. Perhaps it would be helpful to know if any of your friends have traveled to Bogota, Columbia, if you're looking for travel tips. And every now and again it's handy to see a list of photos a certain friend has been tagged in or public photos of a specific place. But those kinds of searches aren't really an everyday necessity.

Facebook's search product also has a basic function to help surface people and pages that may be relevant. But similar to Twitter, Facebook relies heavily on keywords.

So, a search for "Moto X" on Facebook brings up page results for that name, but no page suggestions for Motorola or its owner, Google. A search for "iPhone" returns similar keyword-focused results with no suggestions for Apple, iTunes, or an iPhone-focused blog or website like Macworld, 9to5 Mac, or Macrumors.

Facebook's basic results also let you drill down to a number of search refinements such as people, business pages, places, groups, Facebook apps, and events. If that doesn't satisfy you, Facebook also offers links to Bing searches that, in the case of Moto X, were highly relevant to the query.

 

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