The business value of Twitter


8 Apr 2009

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As Google shows interest in Twitter’s search capabilities, and firms like Salesforce begin offering Twitter integration to their customer base, the micro-blogging service means business – and business opportunities.

Irish web development firm WebStrong creates bespoke online applications and business collaboration tools.

Earlier this year, the company brought out Twitter Perch, an open source project that enables companies and brands to automatically follow Twitter users who talk about them online.

Aside from brand monitoring, WebStrong saw the same qualities in Twitter that Google is interested in right now: its use as a real-time search engine.

“Twitter has become a very viable alternative to Google when searching for breaking news and whatever else is happening right now,” said Webstrong founder and CEO, Iarfhlaith Kelly.

This led to the development of Twission, a web application for finding out the buzz amongst your connections and also friends of friends for a particular keyword – in other words, the extension of real-time search.

“I guess Twission was a departure from our standard work, but sometimes you just see a need or an opportunity and have to go for it. Twission was one of those times,” Kelly said.

Early indications had Twitter tagged as the next blogging platform, but could it be the next wave of web search?

“Real-time search is only just beginning to take off, and Google desperately wants to be at the core of this new trend. But right now, it’s not having it all its own way because it has been Twitter that has become the defacto standard in real-time search, not Google,” Kelly said.

He goes on to explain that, as things stand, it would be a slow and inefficient process for a search giant such as Google to keep up with the results generated from Twitter conversations.

“The technical challenges of overcoming this are significant, and an easy solution is for Google to simply buy Twitter. If this happened, it would be able to index the entire stream of Twitter updates in real-time, effectively rendering Twitter Search obsolete and reducing competition in online search.”

However, Kelly thinks that Twitter may be able to challenge Google’s search dominance by adopting a similar revenue model.

“If Twitter can hold out and develop a business model of its own, such as embedded ads alongside its real-time search results, then it could become a very powerful resource in its own right, and a truly viable alternative to Google for searching online.”

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Iarfhlaith Kelly, CEO and founder of WebStrong’