There’s a rumor afoot that Twitter is talking to both Microsoft and Google about licensing the full Twitter feed for real-time search. If so, it could mean that the company starts making money without having to sacrifice the user experience.
The latest rumor about these secret search talks comes from Silicon Valley insider Kara Swisher. She says that talks with both companies are at the advanced stage and could be announced shortly.
Apparently the deals not only include a heft licensing feed, but also a revenue sharing agreement that will allow Twitter to continue making residuals off the deal. And all the search engines will have to do is find some way to index the 54 billion tweets per month posted by Twitter users.
Another interesting part of this strategy is that the deals are entirely non-exclusive. Twitter wants to leave the door for other companies with an interest in real-time search to have the option to license its feed.
What’s not clear is the difference between this offering and the firehose Twitter feed that the company offers via the XMPP instant messaging protocol. This is the feed currently used by real-time players such as OneRiot to provide search results as they happen.
Current players in real-time search only provide the most recent results from Twitter and can’t necessarily account for authority. Indexing the feed would allow Microsoft or Google to determine authority based on retweets or additional links to a piece of content.
Indexing 54 billion tweets per month is no small task, but for a search engine to crawl all of Twitter on a real-time basis would be nearly impossible. But the outstanding question is how much these search engines stand to profit from tweets.
The best part about this approach to monetizing Twitter’s audience is that it won’t interfere with the user experience on the service. This is a much better solution for users than premium features or ad interruptions for keeping Twitter fast and clean.