Bit.ly’s new Realtime search engine digs up viral news on the fly

DigitalTrends Jul 29, 2012 Back to press

Bit.ly has released Realtime, a search engine for real-time viral news.

The vast trove of data that Bit.ly has collected since its inception as a URL shortener four years ago is finally getting put to work. On Friday, Bit.ly opened up its private Beta for Realtime, which Bit.ly describes as its “attention ranking engine.”

You can think of Realtime as a hybrid between Google’s search engine and Twitter’s trending topics. It’s a consumer-focused search engine that follows its “reputation monitoring” tool, which was launched to Bit.ly Enterprise subscribers in 2011.

Realtime is optimized to surface the top viral news being shared at the moment throughout the world. Every piece of content saved, shortened and shared on Bit.ly is analyzed, and the top links clicked on per minute will be listed in the Realtime newsfeed. What makes this service of particular use is its search engine. Its filters enable users to surface the top trending news based on the keywords, topic, country, and website. Interestingly enough, results can be further refined based on the audience’s language and the social networks that the shortened URLs are being clicked on. The social networks you can filter include Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Ameblo (known as Ameba), a Japanese social network and blogging community.

Because the news that surfaces on Realtime represents the top results at the moment, according to Bit.ly, the “stories will only remain in the system as long as they are actively receiving attention,” and unlike Google, Realtime search results are not archived.

We had a chance to try the private beta, and noticed a few odd outliers listed when filtering the search results for technology news from Facebook. Results included a sports blog discussing Tim Tebow’s New York Jets training camp, and an article from The New Yorker discussing the aurora movie theater shooting and American gun culture. It was evident that the algorithm needs further refinement. 

In some ways, Realtime resembles Twitter’s trending topics, but there is an important difference.Twitter surfaces the most popular links that your followers are sharing. Realtime’s results are more objective to a fault — there’s no way to filter based on user interest..

Right now, Realtime provides a sufficient service that allowed us to read the latest news at the moment, and we could see the benefits of offering this tool as a mobile application.

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