Google Near Realtime Queries Patent

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One of the interesting features at Twitter is the near real-time trending topics section which enables you to see hot topics that are the subject of tweets. Twitter allows you to see tweets about these topics on a worldwide scale, or nationwide, or even on a smaller regional scope. With Google Trends, you can see topics that are recently popular at the search engine as well. But many of those are popular topics over a period of hours or even days. What if instead, you could see hot topics in Google searches in much shorter periods, such as over the last 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes? What if you could see these trending searches on a nationwide basis or for much smaller regions? I’d love to see what realtime queries were taking place over the last half hour in my part of Virginia, for instance.

A Google patent granted this week explores the topic and describes such a realtime queries system.

Method and system for displaying real time trends
Invented by Hiroshi Kuraoka and Takayuki Tei
Assigned to Google Inc.
US Patent 8,140,562
Granted March 20, 2012
Filed: March 24, 2009


Displaying an information product that includes exceptional search queries to a user can include receiving search queries, measuring the frequencies of search queries received, determining the search queries whose frequencies are rising in the most relevant manner, and then displaying these exceptional queries on a user interface. The user then can select one of the displayed exceptional queries, and then the system can provide search results corresponding with the exceptional queries.

The activity of a particular query can be based on the frequency of the search query’s reception over a given period of time, whether in relation to an expected frequency level or the rate of change of the frequency level. Additionally, the relevant periods of time over which activity is measured can be relatively short to maximize their relevance at a given instant.

When Google had access to Twitter’s firehose of data, until the deal between Google and Twitter ended, realtime Twitter results would show for a topic if you searched for it, and it was a great way to see very recent results for a topic. If Google starts showing near realtime “hot” queries, that could help fill a void that the missing Twitter data provided. If Google provided a hot query interface that didn’t rely upon searches for a particular subject, the list of queries displayed could act as a discovery vehicle that could show near realtime topics that you wouldn’t have to search for first to get news and information on suddenly popular topics.

The patent notes that there are a number of ways that this system could function, from focusing upon very popular recent topics, somewhat as Google Trends does now, to displaying instead query topics that see very high jumps in the frequency of searches over short periods of time. They refer to these queries as “exceptional” queries, and in the patent describe some of the technical processes behind uncovering these queries and some of the ways they might be displayed, including some user control over how they might be shown.

For instance, the queries might go through a “canonicalization” process, where very similar related queries might count as the same query, misspellings might be taken into account, compound words might be decompounded or vice versa and differences in capitalization and punctuation might be accounted for, so that slight variations of a query might be considered together.

We are told that queries for these terms might be considered as an important signal in determining which might be trending queries, but the language of the patent leaves open other user signals as well in calculating what is hot.

The patent also provides some examples of the kinds of queries that might trigger an appearance as a trending query, such as a weather event or a special event or guest performer on a television show, or even searches for dining establishments during lunch or dinner time.

The patent also describes how such a system might especially benefit the users of mobile devices and handhelds by providing a list of hot topics so that users of those devices don’t have to do as much typing when they want to learn about real time occurrences happening around them.

While Google Trends is interesting, it’s not really something that I’m compelled to visit on a regular basis, but being able to see near realtime queries for hot topics near where I live is something I would pay a lot more attention to than the information shown by Google Trends.

If Google launched this near realtime queries service, would you use it?

An approach like this provides the ability to monitor activities on the Web in and the world in near real time, transforming Google from just a repository of information to a source of very new and recent information. One of the issues behind the approach is whether or not Google can capture relevant search results quickly enough so that when they display many of these trending queries, they show relevant results related to why the queries are hot topics.

For instance, if lots of people in an area suddenly start searching for information about a very recent nearby tornado, and Google identifies that as a trending query, will Google be able to show results about that tornado? Will they be able to index and display that content quickly enough to satisfy searchers? The trending topics approach on Twitter only has to show the Tweets that make those topics hot. This approach from Google not only requires that Google do a great job of monitoring realtime queries but also of indexing content related to those queries.

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12 thoughts on “Google Near Realtime Queries Patent”

  1. Hey Bill,

    Very interesting. I certainly would use it to get ideas for publishing content that’s “sticky” for the time being. Definitely would help authors to publish more recent and relevant content. Sounds like a huge task for Google, but I have no doubt we will see it relatively soon.

    I do wonder how this technology would come together. Would be cool to be a fly on the wall at Google for these things. 🙂

  2. This is tantalizing news for small bloggers like me. I am still trying to figure out when to go live with seasonally trending posts, and if I had access to real time or near to real time information, it would really take some stress off my shoulders. Thanks for the informative article!

  3. Can’t help picturing the guys at Demand Media rubbing their hands together in anticipation of this…although I suppose the flipside is that if you can get local results, at least local players will have the opportunity to compete…

  4. I’d be interested in a hot query system for Google if the user had the option of filtering out celebrity-related queries!

  5. Hi Dali,

    Thanks. It does seem like it would be useful in uncovering possible topics to either write about, or to use as springboards for related topics. I hope that we do see something like it soon from Google.

    I don’t know if you had a chance to watch the recent video featured on the Google Inside Search blog that showed part of one of their meetings where they discussed an algorithm that they might be launching, but it was pretty interesting seeing how the different search quality team members interacted:

  6. Hi Jennifer,

    In a number of cases, you can often anticipate when certain topics, especially seasonal ones might come up, and you do want to give Google a chance to index your content and rank it before there’s a big demand for queries related to those topics. But this type of real time or near real time information definitely could be useful. The thing is though that you probably wouldn’t be the only one looking at it.

  7. Hi Mark,

    I could see how this might interest someone at Demand Media. They have published a patent filing on how they identify keywords to write about, and part of their analysis involves the potential “profitability” of publishing content targeted at a specific keyword. There’s no guarantee that keywords surfaced from this type of hot query approach might be “profitable” in many cases. But I could definitely see them paying a lot of attention to it.

  8. Hi Joel,

    I suspect that there’s no way around at least some hot queries showing up in a system like this including queries related to celebrities. Then again, we don’t have to click on those. 🙂

  9. I think pattern recognition becomes important at this point. We can jump on a trend but typically by then its too late. Its a cool idea but I have no idea how I’d use it.

  10. Hi Thomas,

    I guess, to a degree, a better skill to have is to understand the best wy to start or inspire a tredn, rather than get in on it at the tail end.

    But I still think that being able to see this kind of information is interesting and informative, and could potentially be useful. I think it will appeal to a lot of people who have no desire to take advantage of it in some way, as well.

  11. While this sounds really cool and has a ton of applications of use I can think of, the part that upsets me is the patents. Why should aggregating and displaying data be a patent-able feature. This just adds to the long list of ridiculous patents that ultimately stunts progress online. Not a fan of the patent trolls but excited about this real time search results feature.

  12. Hi Chris,

    I write about a lot of patents here, and one of the main reasons why is to learn about what the search engines (and sometimes other businesses) are thinking about, might be researching, what kinds of assumptions they might be making, and so on. While I do think there are some issues with the patent system, and with patents being granted that might not be new, non-obvious, and not useful, that’s really not sometime I’m interested in writing about, fighting about, or spending much time thinking about.

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