Over the years we’ve covered a fair number of search engines, most of them trying to reinvent the wheel by adding thumbnails, or some other interfering feature in the search process which doomed them to failure. Or they’ve simply not produced good enough results when compared with the global leader.
Topsy is the first search engine we’ve seen in a while which looks as though it offers real differentiation and value to the process, and does so without losing any points over ease of use. The new service offers a real time look at the social network conversations and thereby provides a meta-view of the state of a topic in one hit. It goes way beyond a mere Twitter search, because it collates a bunch of social conservations from other sites, including Google+ and relevant mainstream web links.
As with our other favorite specialist search engine Omgili, which finds conversation results from forums and message boards, the power of this sort of search tool is the fact that it also delivers an indication of how ‘hot’ the conversation is, so you can see whether there’s something important going on.
For an example we just entered ‘Gmail down’ into Topsy this morning, and it appears that Gmail has indeed been out of action for around 3 to 4 hours. Yes you can get this sort of feedback from Twitter, but bringing in the additional sources gives a much more contextual set of results on which to base a decision.
We’re impressed enough to say that Topsy is now on our permanent list of search tools, and will be very useful for tracking news trends at crucial times. The social analytics tab is a bonus, which gives you an overview of the web conversation for specific keywords.
The only final point we’d make about these sorts of tools, is to beware of the inherent language bias which can really skew the results for conversations about global issues. If it ain’t English, it’s not going to be featured, right?