The team behind Bit.ly, a popular link shortener, has been diligently working on turning its giant collection of link data into valuable offerings. Yesterday, it announced the beta launch of two of them: a search platform and reputation monitoring service specifically for "viral" content.
Holy Links, Batman!
The new search technology will allow bitly to crawl and classify the 80+ million URLs it shortens each day in order to create an index of the content that's most broadly distributed, frequently-clicked, and trending.
Basically, rather than sorting by pagerank, bitly displays the stories that it predicts will get the most attention over the next 24 hours. The company's analytics are then used to refine these predictions in real time. Platform manager Matt LeMay gave an example of how this works in the company's official blog announcement.
Here's a look at some bitly search results for the query “onstar”:
"You can see that there’s been some controversy about OnStar tracking its customers, and its former customers." he wrote. "The top results include news stories about the company, and a blog post by a single individual, a forensics scientist in Ohio named Jonathan Zdiarski, at zdiarksi.com."
LeMay compares these results to Google's results, which prioritizes the company’s official website and its wikipedia page instead.
"This is the challenge of the realtime search space — many of the pages are so new, so fresh, that they don’t have any pagerank," continued LeMay. "A personal blog post isn’t authoritative in the way that the New York Times or Wired magazine is authoritative, but stories don’t find their way into Wired unless people like Jonathan Zdiarski speak out. Increasingly, they do, and often they reach a broad audience on social media before more conventionally-authoritative newsgatherers amplify their messages."
Better than Google? Nah.
On the other side of the fence, it's a widely-known fact that Google has been experimenting with real-time search for some time (the licensing of Twitter's firehose, its own URL shortener, data from Google+, etc.). The big questions is whether or not consumers will prefer this approach over basic search.
In case the most valuable measurement of engagement isn't the click, bitly's search-powered reputation monitoring service for Enterprise customers adds more oomph:
We added a layer of sentiment analysis to our search results and built an alert system that lets our customers know what people are saying about products, brands, or about any topic on social media. Unlike a typical clipping service, which lets you know the things that people have already said about you on Facebook, this is an early-warning system, designed to alert you in realtime to swings in volume and sentiment related to specific keywords.
In addition to an e-mail alert, bitly offers a dashboard for all tracked keywords:
This piece of the puzzle makes a lot of sense for bitly, but how long will the glory last? While 80 million is certainly an impressive number, there are even bigger giants out there -- Twitter -- that wouldn't surprise anyone by kicking out a similar solution of their own.