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Use Twitter To Search Every Tweet Ever Made

Half A Trillion Little Birds Told Me...

I've outlined a million times before how powerful a tool Twitter can be at gleaming the thoughts and opinions of the public on a large scale. Thanks to Twitter, every sporting event, television programme and public scandal can be discussed by hundreds of millions of people. And because of the hashtag, which pools these wandering voices with others' opinions on the same topic, it's possible to see what the world is currently saying about any event imaginable.

But Twitter's search bar has never been as powerful as the theoretical potential of the website itself, and it’s traditionally been difficult to track down any one tweet without being forced to use third party software. Furthermore, Twitter's always been at its most powerful when discovering what people think about current events; once a breaking news story has been and gone, it's been difficult to track what people were thinking about it as it happened.

twitter search algorithm
source: anchormedia.com

Thankfully, that side of things has just been improved exponentially. Twitter have announced an improvement to their search algorithm which means that, finally, every tweet that’s ever been created is discoverable through its built-in search bar. As well as giving us the ability to egotistically track the retweets of each and every one of the hundreds of pointless comments we've made over the last eight years, this means we can retroactively track public opinion ‘as-live’ on huge, months-long spanning events - in the blog post which outlined the change, Twitter named the Japan Earthquake and the Scottish independence vote as perfect examples.

While we've always been able to search comments, usernames and hashtags through Twitter, they used to only keep a detailed index of about the last week’s worth of tweets (in what they called the ‘real-time index’). Now, their search index has ballooned to around half a trillion documents. Despite this massive increase in scope, the tech-elves at Twitter Towers have ensured that the search bar keeps an average latency time of less than 100 milliseconds. Impressive, considering it's now over 100 times larger than before, and it’s gonna keep on a-growin’ by billions of new tweets each week.

twitter search algorithm
source: phandroid.com

At the moment, the updated search bar is pretty basic. Twitter plan to continue upgrading as time goes on, and more and more advanced features will become available over time. Still, you're able to set a few parameters, such as the dates you search between and whose posts you're combing through. In other words, you can choose to search a certain person’s tweets between December and January of last year, and you can choose to only search for tweets which contain the hashtag #christmas. This allows you to track people's changing opinions over time.

For those who understand coding and binary and scary words, Twitter have explained their new search bar in impossible amounts of detail over at their official blog post. If you speak fluent binary, check it out. If you don't, all you need to take away from this article is that Twitter is now even more powerful than it was before.


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Use Twitter To Search Every Tweet Ever Made Reviewed by Emile Cole on Thursday, November 20, 2014 Rating: 5
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