UPDATED 17:40 EDT / MAY 01 2009

What is the Real Time Web, Really?

image Much hay has been made the last few months in general, but the last couple of days in particular, of the Real-Time Web, and what it truly means.  Robert Scoble has been beating the evangelist’s drum of the Real-Time Web, and even several of our contributors here at SiliconANGLE see it as a forgone conclusion that this is where it’s all headed.

Others, though, disagree. Certainly every participant in this discussion conducts part of it on what is now considered the “Real-Time Web,” but whether or not that constitutes “What’s Next,” as Paul Buchheit said today over at ReadWriteWeb, is still a matter of debate.

Most of that debate seems to be what exactly the public facing component of the RTW should be.

"The open, realtime discussions that occur on FriendFeed," Paul told ReadWriteWeb today, "are going to become a major new communication medium on the same level as email, IM and blogging."

On the other hand, some of us don’t find as much value in an ever-scrolling unfiltered stream of updates on our screens. To quote Steven Hodson yesterday, who quoted, well.. me:

A good example was the one that Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins gave in the inaugural CobWEB podcast last night. Using the example of Google the idea of a real time web would be the ability to search for something that was happening right now and have the search engine serve up all the different conversations that are happening on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and blogs. Not what happened half and hour, or hour, ago but what is being talked about right now.

As it is Google is great if you just want to find things that happened at some point in the past even if that past is only a couple of hours old; but when it comes to right now it pretty well falls apart. Many folks like to point to Twitter search as being the answer for that but to me once you get past a certain point with Twitter it is more noise than anything of value.

There’s an essential and subtle difference between the two definitions of Real Time Web, here, and it has to do with filters.

Google, Yahoo, and most other search engines (as well as most news-delivery mechanisms) have a glaring blind-spot when it comes to what’s happening a few seconds ago.  When it comes to a blog post that was posted a couple of hours ago, or even a few minutes ago, generally Google will pick that up pretty quick.

image There are all kinds of thought streams being continually created that will completely fly under that radar: Facebook’s newsfeed, Twitter’s public timeline, FriendFeed’s aggregation ability. Some of these aren’t indexed at all, and some of these are only indexed several hours after their existence. Our only real options on filtering these things are to do so manually.

I’ve often spoken as to why Twitter is the next big thing: ease of access.  There are almost seven billion people in the world and over four billion mobile phones. As someone begins to use a tool like Twitter, though, they can rapidly run into the issue of information overload, and not everyone comes equipped with the skills to delete or mediate that effect.

That’s why the next evolution of the Internet is not just the broad definition being bandied about of the Real Time Web, but the more specific use case of the algorithmically filtered Real Time Web.


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