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In my opinion, Twitter, in its current form, isn't a search engine. The idea that Twitter could be a threat to Google is overblown.
But that doesn't mean that Twitter can't become a search engine. That scenario is looking more likely.
According to CNET's Rafe Needleman, Twitter's VP of Operations and a former Googler, Santosh Jayaram, told him that Twitter "will soon begin to crawl the links included in tweets and begin to index the content of those pages". The only purpose for this, of course, is to build some sort of search product.
In addition, Jayaram said that Twitter will soon be adding a "reputation" element to its existing search. TweetRank anyone?
Clearly, Twitter is thinking more and more about search. It makes sense; everyone has been thinking about Twitter and search. And it's probably a smart thing. By crawling and indexing the content of pages that are linked to in tweets, Twitter could build a very interesting real-time search engine. Perhaps something that would even convince Google that it had to buy Twitter, as has been rumored numerous times.
Twitter's real-time search engine won't be nearly as comprehensive as Google, nor should it be. The purpose will be different and the type of user it attracts will be different. Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb is skeptical and I think he makes some good points but I have to assume that Jayaram isn't making up stories here. If Twitter moves ahead, the big question is whether it can build something truly useful by simply crawling pages that are linked to from tweets. I personally wonder if there will be enough diversity to create something of mainstream appeal and to provide the foundation for a search product that can be monetized well.
Time will tell.
Photo credit: 7son75 via Flickr.