Twitter Now Indexes Every Public Tweet Since 2006
Remember how tweets came pouring in during landmark events such as the 2011 tsunami in Japan, or the second inauguration of Barack Obama? While Twitter has become the undisputed central hub for reporting real-time events, one of its main deficiencies was its search engine, which focused on surfacing real-time breaking news and events.
This changed on November 18, 2014, when after “multiple years of related work,” Twitter announced that it now indexes every public tweet since 2006. This means that users will now be able to search through Twitter’s “hundreds of billions of Tweets,” starting from the very first tweet sent by Twitter co-founder and co-creator Jack Dorsey [See Figure 1 below] to today’s current events.
Prior to this breakthrough, Twitter only allotted about a week’s worth of the most recent search results for any query. However, as pointed out by engineer Yi Zhuang, the new search engine now “efficiently indexes roughly half a trillion documents and serves queries with an average latency of under 100ms,” while also surfacing real-time breaking news and events.
Despite the emphasis on real-time events, Zhuang states that Twitter’s focus has always been on letting users search through every public tweet. Apart from modularity, he cites factors such as scalability, cost effectiveness, and simplicity as major factors in their design.
While this can be easily dismissed as an archive search tool from Twitter, it should be noted that a number of historic events have been documented and captured via the microblogging platform. In the eight years Twitter has been available, numerous protests, landmark events, and breaking stories have been documented—and these are now searchable.
Additionally, searching using hashtags will be made more extensive, as search results filtered by hashtags will no longer be constrained to a week’s worth of results.
Twitter’s new search capabilities have since rolled out to desktop and mobile app versions of the microblogging platform.
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