The new breed of social status search engines
Twitter Search has become an invaluable tool for journalists, market researchers and generally inquisitive people the world over. The ability to see exactly what’s on people’s minds right now is a powerful tool.
Now a new breed of search products is putting a new spin on the idea of search. What if, rather than searching the whole world or our friends on just one service, we could just search what our friends are doing, across multiple web services? As people create more web content in increasing numbers of places, keeping track of everything our friends are doing is becoming harder.
Until recently this kind of search was difficult to achieve. Now with Facebook opening up its data and Twitter supporting OAuth logins that take risk out of using third-party Twitter services, social status search engines are beginning to emerge to give you a new perspective on what your friends are up to.
Here we round up some of the most interesting social status search services right now.
Available now from the iTunes App store (Free)Launched last week, this iPhone app allows you to see what your contacts on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Digg, Delicious, Photo bucket and 12seconds are up to in a combined timeline. A powerful search facility allows searching for keywords, hashtags, usernames and even content types like pictures or video. Usefully, Zensify even includes Twitter DMs in its search results.
The search isn’t quite perfect. Searching for the word ‘Bing’ today it included the fact that one of my Facebook friends was taking part in an event in the town of Bingley. Also, results appear incomplete. Searching for London brought up just two results, one from Facebook today and one from Twitter two days ago. I know for a fact that’s an incomplete result.
The prettiest part of Zensify is its tag cloud that allows you to see the keywords your friends are discussing the most right now across all supported services. You can drill down into tags to see how they link to other keywords.
The currently available version is billed as ‘Zensify Preview’, so a version with more features can be expected soon. Zensify’s only substantial flaw is that it’s only available for the iPhone. A browser-based version would be incredibly useful. Speaking of which…
Currently in private beta, this service from an Israeli startup supports Facebook and Twitter. Developer Lior Levin describes it as “A search engine for anything you would prefer searching your friends for rather than the web: books, vacations, flights, beer, a party, a job and much more”.
While the service is still being developed, Lior has a clear roadmap for its future. “We are already in a series of talks with big websites/portals (for them to) integrate our friends search technology in their website”.
The search facility is much more reliable, and feels quicker, than Zensify’s. A search for ‘London’ here brought back many more results. While they lack a pretty tag cloud, they have a Trends column to view current popular keywords among-st your friends.
If you would like to try Status Search you can apply for an account at their site.
The name Search Wiki might sound familiar. It’s the name . Now Californian outfit Eurekster is using the name for what appears to be, on first look, a slick site with a solid offering. Once you have signed in you can search your friends Twitter and Facebook statuses. The problem is that the site doesn’t appear to use Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth to authenticate your accounts, so there’s no way I’m going to try logging in to try it.
Without logging in you can still search public tweets and the web from a single search box. This search facility claims to pull in results from Google, Yahoo, Ask, Live Search (presumably now Bing) as well as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Hi5. In reality it only seems to display results from Twitter and the web. The results it does bring in aren’t presented in a form that’s as easy to digest as they are via separate services like Google and Twitter Search.
The third dimension to the service is basically the same idea as Google’s Search Wiki. Search results (from the web but not from social status updates) can be voted up and down based on how useful they are to you. You can earn ‘S wiki Points by performing these votes. These points, the site claims, can be exchanged for a range of gadgets and games consoles.
Search Wiki’s main problem is that it’s totally unfinished while presenting itself as a fully-functioning site. When I tested it, the site-voting and S wiki Points elements of the site were non-functioning and MySpace, LinkedIn and Hi5 integration seemed non-existent. Emails sent to the address listed on the site bounce, while an email to Eurekster’s press department three days ago has not been replied to.
This is definitely a service to leave for now. As for what Google think of the name, we can only guess.
At present the social status search crown is shared by Zensify and Status Search. Zensify’s strengths are its combined timeline of friends activities across services and its good looks. When it comes to speed and comprehensiveness of search results, Status Search definitely has the edge. Being web-based rather than on the iPhone it’s available to more people and developers can roll out updates quicker than Zensify, who need to wait for Apple’s notorious approval process.
This is a developing area though, and there’s lots of room for the current players and new entrants surprise us with innovative new features. This is definitely an area to keep your eye on.