Google announced today the addition of a timeline feature to its Twitter search results.
Google says the timeline lets you "zoom to any point in time and 'replay' what people were saying publicly about a topic on Twitter."
(To try this feature, go to the main Google page, enter your search query and hit the Search button. Click "Show options," then "Updates.")
Nice! Searching for old tweets on Twitter itself is a pain in the neck. You have to slog back in time, one page at a time. The idea of using a slider to dial in a specific time in the past and "see what people were saying" is compelling.
What Google isn't telling you is that their results are just a small subset of the actual tweets posted.
To test this, I searched for the phrase "Everybody Loves Hugo," which was the title of last night's episode of "Lost." I used quote marks.
I found that Google displays at most half the tweets. The other half are ignored or eliminated. Google doesn't say what their criteria are for displaying some tweets and ignoring others.
The bottom line is that if you want a timeline feature to find out what people were saying in the past -- or, if you want partial Twitter results displayed along with messages from MySpace, Facebook and Buzz, Google's "Updates" view is the way to go.
But if you want real-time Twitter updates, Twitter.com itself is far superior to Google. It updates faster, and best of all provides complete results. And if you want even more control, try Twitterfall.com, which lets you eliminate re-tweets, set the speed and generally control a huge number of variables.