Earlier today, I wanted to watch the “Damn Daniel” video. The viral video that turned a pair of white Vans sneakers into a symbol of the life originated as a tweet, so I searched for it on Twitter. Bad idea. Then I remember Google has access to Twitter’s full firehose. Great idea.
That’s all to say: Twitter isn’t very good at search. But Twitter seems to recognize that and the need for it to get better.
In an abusively technical blog post published on Thursday, Twitter’s Director of Engineering for Search Infrastructure, Sam Luckenbill, said the company is taking another stab at the technology underpinning its search engine to make it better at identifying what exactly it is that people are searching for.
“Currently, the core search infrastructure team only maintains indexes of Tweets and users,” Luckenbill wrote.
But Twitter isn’t just tweets anymore. There are also Vine videos, Periscope livestreams and Moments, um, collections(?). You might see those things in your feed, or in their respective apps, already. But maybe you want to go back and find a funny “Frozen” Vine you’d seen a couple years ago. Me too, but I had to turn to Google to find it.
Sometime in the future, I might actually be able to use Twitter to find that content distributed through one of Twitter’s own platforms, though Luckenbill is playing coy about the possibility (emphasis mine): “We may want to build indexes of Moments, Vines, and Periscope broadcasts,” he wrote.
That’s not the only thing Twitter might want to build with its potential newfangled search capabilities. “To build a new media product we might want a new operator to find Tweets with GIFs, or to use content as a ranking signal,” Luckenbill wrote.
I don’t know what exactly Twitter is planning, and Luckenbill’s jargon doesn’t help, but here’s what I hope he means: that if I want to go back and find something I saw or heard about that was on Twitter or one of its other apps, I can do it on Twitter, just like I can with Facebook posts on Facebook or YouTube videos on YouTube. And for Twitter, I assume the hope would be that more other people would do that, too, especially people who don’t use Twitter regularly and instead just search Google when they want to find a tweet mentioned on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” If Twitter can get people in the habit of coming directly to Twitter to find that stuff — not unlike what Amazon has done — then it stands a better chance of keeping those people around, helping them find other stuff they might like and showing them ads — all of which Wall Street might like.
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