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What Twitter and Google’s Fire Hose Reopening Means for Both Parties

Published: February 13, 2015

Author: Colin Guidi

The Twitter fire hose is coming back! This is big news for Google and Twitter alike.
But what happened after the first agreement between the two lapsed in 2011, and what are both sides looking to gain now? Let’s take a look.

What both parties lost

In 2009, the first “firehose” agreement for Twitter to provide Google real-time access to their tweet feed was reached. In 2011, the parties declined to renew the deal.
When the relationship was alive, Google had an offering known as Google Realtime Search located at google.com/realtime. Here’s the original announcement:

This real-time feature allowed the discovery of multiple resources in real time — meaning you could perform a query, and if there were tweets around that query, Google would have a section of the results page update its content on-the-fly while the rest of the SERP remained static. Here’s an example.
Google also pulled into real-time search sources outside of Twitter, including:

– Google news links

– Google blog search links

– Newly created web pages

– Freshly updated web pages

– FriendFeed updates

– Jaiku updates

– Identi.ca updates

– TwitArmy updates

– Google Buzz posts

– MySpace updates

– Facebook fan page updates

– Quora

– Gowolla

– Plixi

– Me2day

– Twitgoo

However, Twitter was by far the main driver of real-time search, and after the engagement was discontinued, Google temporarily (302) redirected www.google.com/realtime back to its homepage.
During this time, Twitter continued to provide data to Bing; the contract between the two was renewed in 2013. Tweets used to be searched for at bing.com/social, which has now been redirected to the main bing.com homepage, as Bing’s incorporation of social elements has transformed over time. But Bing was also never really set up like Google was, to allow indexed tweets in the past to be archived and searchable.
It’s very feasible that, given the discrepancy of market share numbers between Bing and Google, Twitter saw diminished organic traffic levels after parting ways with Mountain View. This means that Google lost its main component to real-time search and Twitter lost real-time visibility in the engine hosting the largest market share in the U.S.

What both parties stand to gain

Very quickly, Twitter will benefit by expanding organic exposure back to their network. Tweets will be indexed live, right when they’re tweeted by users. Any organic click from the results page will result in enhanced organic traffic numbers for Twitter. And Twitter content will still reach those users who are signed out of their Twitter accounts.
Can’t Google just crawl Twitter for this information? Yes, but tweets coming in at over 6,000/minute could create bandwidth issues on Twitter’s end if the Googlebot was consistently crawling Twitter for this information.
Google benefits from enhanced engine usage. Just as it was during the first agreement between Google and Twitter, users will now be able to leverage Google for ‘tweet searching.’ With the market saturation of the 3 main search engines, Google’s market share likely won’t increase by a noticeable amount, but the ability for users to search for live tweets can only further its usage.
Will Google bring back www.google/realtime? The webpage has been temporarily redirected to the main homepage, possibly with the intention of removing the redirect and allowing users to search within that area of Google. So there’s hope!
What about their Twitter account? Will this be coming back? We’ll see.
Google is undoubtedly gaining back the main driver of effectiveness for their real-time search offering. In regards to social signals and their correlation with higher rankings, you have to ask the question of what the renewal will affect when thinking of social’s role within SEO. With Google wanting to host all of the possible information a user might want to search for, this is a welcomed homecoming for both parties.

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