Twitter now turns to the search market; ‘Twitter Firefox’ launched

Google is the search king, but twitter is not far behind, going by the latest move by Firefox-maker Mozilla Foundation.

A month after Twitter ended its search-agreement with Google, it has partnered with the Mozilla Foundation to bring the Twitter search feature to Mozilla Firefox browsers.

Mozilla has even launched a special ‘Twitter edition’ of its new Firefox 6. The functionality can also be brought into the vanilla edition by installing a plugin.

The move, coming so soon after Twitter ended its search agreement with Google, points to Twitter’s ambitions in the area of search, and the evolution of the platform from a simple communication medium to an information source.

The move is also further evidence of a ‘crumbling borders’ phenomenon in the online World.

For example, Google, a search engine, launched its Google plus social network; Facebook, a social network, recently launched its own email and video-conferencing service and now, Twitter seems to be taking a shot at the search market.

Google’s deal with Twitter, to offer a similar service on its search engine (called Real Time search), was ended last month, presumably because Twitter was not interested in extending it. At present, the Google’s /realtime page simply redirects to the main Google page.

In the Twitter edition of Firefox, users can search out users and hashtags (topics) by typing them in the ‘address bar’ and pressing enter; not very different from how Google Search is implemented in most browsers.

To specify that you want the search conducted on Twitter (and not Google or others), you have to add a ‘@’ (for users) or a ‘#” (for key-words) in-front. Otherwise, the query will be directed to a normal search engine.

Another change in the new Firefox is that in addition to listing the usual search engines such as Google, Yahoo etc., the search box on the right also now offers a ‘Twitter’ option, for users who want more immediate data.

Besides all this, there is also a ‘Twitter App Tab’, which lets you manage your twitter account in a traditional way — following friends, broadcasting messages etc..

The financial aspects of the partnership between Twitter and Mozilla Foundation are not clear. Typically, Mozilla gets a fixed amount of money from search engines like Google for each query generated by its browsers through the search or location tab.

Indeed, Google accounts for nearly all of the Mozilla Foundation’s commercial revenue as most users leave the default selection in the search tab to Google.

However, over the last two years, Google has also become a competitor to Mozilla, with its incubation of the open-source Chromium project.

Unlike the open-source Firefox which uses an “engine” called Gecko, the Chromium is based on the faster ‘Webkit’ engine (originally part of the KDE project.)

Google takes the Chromium code, adds some of its own and offers it to users as Google Chrome. In countries like India, where a large proportion of users are young and technically savvy, the Chrome is estimated to have equaled or exceeded Firefox.

At present, it is estimated that all three big browsers — Internet Explorer, Chrome and Mozilla — have an equal share of around 30-35%. However, Chrome, due to its reputation for speed, is estimated to be increasing its market share at the expense of the other two.

The Twitter edition of Firefox is available from the server.


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