If you're online and want to follow what's happening in the real world, you need real-time search. Google doesn't have it -- yet -- and neither do Bing or Yahoo. But a number of new search services scan Twitter and other sites in nearly real-time, and will find for you the absolute latest update from the real-time social Web. We looked at more than two dozen products that search Twitter and other sources, to find the best tools for uncovering the beating pulse of whatever topic you may be interested in.
To set the stage, let's look at Twitter's own search service. It's not bad. It's simple to use, presents results in a very clear way, and does a good job of balancing users' need to see results in real-time with their inability to actually read the stream of tweets flying by. It updates a counter at the top of the page as new tweets that match your search come in, but you have to hit a link to actually see the updates. Twitter Search also has an extremely good advanced query builder, and you can subscribe to search results via RSS.
The downside to Twitter Search is that it's dumb, at least for now. Results are only sorted chronologically. There's no algorithm to give you the most-read, most authoritative, most linked-to, or most re-tweeted items. And it only searches Twitter.
There are three services that do a much better job than Twitter Search, and several others are also worth looking at for specific purposes. Click through the next few pages to find out more.