By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm
(Over at TechCrunch, Michael Arrington has a good review of Topsy, a new search engine that bases its relevance rankings on retweets–the action, on Twitter, of repeating a tweet from another Twitterer to share it with your followers. The idea makes sense–in theory, at least, an item on the Web that lots of folks retweet should be more interesting than one that nobody retweets (or nobody tweeted in the first place). And Topsy gives more value to retweets that come from particularly influential Twitterers. Which is logical for a number of reasons, not the least among them that it helps prevent people from gaming the system.
In its current form, Topsy still feels more like a good idea than one that’s been absolutely nailed–when you perform a search, it comes back with a ton of stuff, and it’s not always sure what’s what. (For instance, in this egosearch for my @harrymccracken twittername, I’m not entirely clear what the organizing principle is behind the list of Twitterers on the right-hand side of the page.) But the potential is huge. Like much of Twitter, retweets are a useful but crude crutch invented by Twitter users, and I suspect that Twitter will replace retweets as we know them with something more elegant. (FriendFeed already has far more sophisticated mechanisms for sharing information and expressing your approval of it.) If Google and other general-purpose search engines aren’t figuring out how to incorporate retweets and other retwe