Twitter Search Adds “Search Within People You Follow”, Autocomplete, Related Results

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Twitter has just implemented a massive set of improvements to search, allowing you to search just within tweets of people you follow, autocomplete, and related results including similar hashtags and usernames. These will all help you find what you’re looking for even if you’re unsure of the exact hashtag or someone’s handle.

Today’s updates are already live on Twitter.com, and related search suggestions, autocomplete, and spelling corrections are also now available in Twitter for iPhone and Android. You can try them out now with a search for “Jeremy Lin” which returns his username and the real names of teammates as suggestions, plus a filter for tweets from People You Follow.

Here’s a list of many of the additions:

  • Spelling corrections: If you misspell a term, we’ll automatically show results for your intended query.
  • Related suggestions: If you search for a topic for which people use multiple terms, we will provide relevant suggestions for terms where the majority of that conversation is happening on Twitter.
  • Results with real names and usernames: When you search for a name like ‘Jeremy Lin,’ you’ll see results mentioning that person’s real name and their Twitter account username.
  • Results from people you follow: In addition to seeing ‘All’ or ‘Top’ Tweets for your search, you can also now see Tweets about a given topic from only the people you follow when you select the ‘People you follow’ view. Viewing Tweets about a topic from just the people you follow is a great way to find useful information and join the conversation.

The announcement, which was teased yesterday, follows along the wave of enhancements to the Discover tab, email digests, and Tailored Trends designed to make Twitter about more than just tweeting and reading.

I’m most excited about being able to search within People You Follow, which will help resurface content you noticed in your stream but need to return to later. Without this new tool, you had to wade through page after page of tweets by strangers. For example, a general search for “tonight” would produce tons of results I don’t care about, but by filtering to “People You Follow” it gives me a look into what my network is up to this evening. Hey look, I just discovered a concert by dj Doorly tonight.

While the improvements sound great, they still need some refining. A search for the misspelling “Jeremey Lin” only pulls up the basketball star’s correctly spelled name in the auto-complete until you get to “Jereme” where the misspelling starts. It also won’t show him as a related result the way Google’s “Showing results for…” and “did you mean” do. That means users will either have to type slowly and watch for suggestions for these improvements to truly guide them.

Maybe our conference just wasn’t cool enough to get assistance, but a search for hashtag “#techcrunchdisrupt” doesn’t return suggestions for the proper hashtag “#tcdisrupt”.

Still, the ambition of the changes should be commended. While Twitter’s blog post announcement was titled “Simpler Search”, autocomplete and suggestions are quite complicated engineering challenges.

Twitter search has long lagged behind other internal search engines that have featured autocomplete and suggestions for years. With time and data monitoring, Twitter is sure to improve the features, and unlock the potential of exploring the world’s real-time consciousness.