Times Square was evacuated earlier today when the bomb squad was called in to inspect a suspicious parked van. It turned out to be nothing, but as people were scrambling for information they would have been better off doing a search on Bing than on Google. A search for “Times Square” on Google about 15 minutes after I saw my first Tweet about it turned up two-day old news results up top about New Year’s Eve preperations and generic photos of Times Square, whereas a search on Bing at least had relevant headlines from ABC News (“NYPD: No Bomb Inside Van Abandoned in Times Square”) and CNN (“Police investigate van parked in Times Square”).
Of course, Google was perfectly capable of showing the best realtime results. The problem is that the best results were hidden on Google’s realtime updates page (click “Show options” and then “Updates” on any search), and Bing’s Twitter search page, which combines Tweets with headlines. I learned about the bomb scare and subsequent reopening of Times Square on Twitter before it even hit most news sites. But the next thing I did was search on Google. If you look now, Google is finally showing the right news results, but the screenshot above is what I saw when I searched, along with what I saw immediately after on Bing.
Google’s realtime results which show what people are saying on Twitter provides much more relevant information than its stale news search results on the main search page. Incidents such as this one show why those realtime results should be on the homepage as well, for both Google and Bing. If this was a real incident, hiding the realtime search results doesn’t do anyone much good.