Google has changed the way it presents real-time search updates, giving those search results their own section and a "conversation" view designed to cluster like-minded updates.
Back in December, Google first introduced into its search results the concept of "real-time" search results from sources like Twitter and news organizations, placing a dedicated window among regular search results that automatically scrolled through links to stories or tweets related to that topic. It still plans to highlight these types of results among regular search results, but it has created a separate page at google.com/realtime, where those types of updates can be discovered.
The page got off to a rocky start, going down about half an hour after it launched for some users, but Google said it was rolling out gradually to searchers. It can also be accessed from the left-hand side of Google's main search results page under "updates," or directly through a longer URL that Google included in its blog post until the main one reaches everyone.
Real-time search is a thorny problem: it's a lot more difficult to harness the flood of real-time content and organize it in a relevant way than it is to crawl static Web pages. Google actually has to pay real-time sources of information like Twitter for access to the "firehose" of tweets in order to pull them into search results.
Microsoft and Yahoo have also experimented with real-time search: Bing, for example, has a separate page dedicated to "social" results. Startups such as OneRiot have also tried to harness the astounding amount of content produced by social-media users.
As of the first few hours of the new page, Twitter was the main source of content within the search results, although public posts from Facebook, Google Buzz, and other social networking sites like Myspace and Friendfeed showed up in the listings. At the moment, no ads are showing up alongside the results, but it's not hard to imagine that changing should the dedicated page gain traction with searchers.
Searchers can filter the real-time results by geographic location by using the "nearby" link on the left-hand rail, but it needs a little work, surfacing results from Vermont and Mississippi on a search for "obama" filtered to produce results "nearby" the Bay Area.