Twitter just became a better tool for journalists

Twitter logo and magnifying glassDo you remember your initial tweet?

How about the 20 or 40 tweets that followed?

The first question may be easy to answer. The second, not so much.

But Twitter just announced a way to change that. The 284-million member microblogging platform now has full indexing as well as a search service that can sift for any public tweet ever posted.

So now you can easily dig up the first-ever tweets by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey in 2006, the tweets from the hundreds of people who launched a social media maelstrom this summer in Ferguson, Mo., and about half a trillion other tweets from around the globe.

Before this, only portions of Twitter’s massive archive were available, and those only since 2012.

“Our search engine excelled at surfacing breaking news and events in real time, and our search index infrastructure reflected this strong emphasis on recency,” said Yi Zhuang, search engineer at Twitter, in a blog post Tuesday. “But our long-standing goal has been to let people search through every tweet ever published.”

This opens a door for journalists to find and understand more of the dialog generated online — dialog now considered crucial to our understanding of events and our place in them.

“This new infrastructure … (provides) comprehensive results for entire TV and sports seasons, conferences, industry discussions, places, businesses and long-lived hashtag conversations across topics such as #JapanEarthquake, #Election2012, #ScotlandDecides, #HongKong, #Ferguson, and many more,” Yi wrote.

He noted that the new search is rolling out over several days and is limited to scouring keywords, though other search elements will be added in time. Only viable tweets marked as public are searchable. Deleted tweets won’t appear, but assorted third-party tools are available to uncover those.

For now, search results appear in the “All” tab of the Twitter Web client, as well as the iOS and Android mobile apps. The interface will change as the index evolves, Yi said.

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