Microsoft Corp and Google Inc secured separate agreements to access real-time content from Web phenomenon Twitter, intensifying their battle for a search market that Google dominates.
Google, and Microsoft's 5-month-old Bing, each announced deals to access Twitter's store of public data in real time on Wednesday, in the latest sign of escalating competition between the two search engines.
The long-expected deals are expected to ramp up the efficacy and lure of search results, by allowing users to scan real-time Tweets: 140-character stream-of-consciousness messages that Twitter hosts on its popular website.
The back-to-back announcements underscored how real-time data in search results is shaping up to be a pivotal battleground in the search arena.
Microsoft unveiled its deal with Twitter and provided an on-stage demonstration of the newly-launched product at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco Wednesday morning.
Hours later, Google announced on its company blog its own agreement, promising that Twitter messages, or Tweets, would be incorporated into search results in the coming months.
Both companies would not disclose financial terms. Microsoft also announced a deal to include content from social network Facebook on Wednesday.
Asked about the timing of twin announcements, Google Vice President of Search Products Marissa Mayer told Reuters deals between fast-growing companies like Google and Twitter take a long time to come together.
This is not something that happens on the scale of hours, it's something that happens on the scale of months, she said. Google's addition of Twitter data will fill a critical gap.
Whenever there's new data that's emerging, and growing as fast as we're seeing with Twitter, it's really about making sure that we have the content so we can search for it and find it for our users.
Twitter, the 3-year-old Web start-up that has become an Internet sensation popularized by celebrities and government, attracts tens of millions of visitors every month.
In September, it received a $100 million round of financing that valued the company at $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Twitter has yet to generate significant revenue from its free service, though it has mentioned advertising and premium features as potential ways to make money.
AN INTERNET PHENOMENON
Qi Lu, president of online services at Microsoft, said data from Twitter could provide signals about which content on the Web is most popular and most relevant to search queries.
You can use those to augment today's search experience, Lu told a San Francisco Internet conference.
From Wednesday, Twitter search results will be accessible on a special section of Bing as a beta, or test product. Microsoft plans to present the most popular Tweets of the moment, while allowing Web surfers to view Twitter messages that contain links to other Web content. Microsoft will filter out spam and other extraneous data.
Microsoft said data from Facebook would be available in Bing at an unspecified later date. The Facebook deal encompasses only messages that its 300 million-plus users have flagged as viewable to the public, a practice that is relatively new and not as widespread on the social network, where users typically send messages to groups of friends.
Facebook Chief Operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said no money changed hands in the deal between Facebook and Microsoft, during a separate presentation at the conference.
As searchers are looking for more and more real-time Web results, we think this partnership will help Bing to improve its user experience, said JP Morgan analyst Imran Khan in a note to investors.
Microsoft also inked a deal this year to entwine its search efforts with Yahoo's.
Yahoo's chief technology officer, Ari Balogh, told reporters that, generally speaking, any data Microsoft's search engine has access to also would be accessible to Yahoo under the terms of their partnership.
Yahoo has been testing the limited inclusion of Twitter messages within search results to certain users, he added.
All content on the Web is relevant to search, Balogh said. He thought people would not want to go to three or four sites to access different types of data.
(Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Richard Chang and Carol Bishopric)