How long is Twitter’s Memory?

May 5, 2009

In March, the answer was 3 months. Today it’s 3 weeks. (Update August 2009: It’s now only 9 days. ) What’s next? Will Twitter limit search results to 3 days?

In March, Tweet Satisfaction began storing tweets that matched certain keywords. At the time, the Twitter Search API would return tweets for the last 3 months.  Searching in the online application would produce similar results.

Today, the both twitter search methods only produce results for the last 21 days.

Why reduce the search “look back” period by an order of magnitude?

In a word…   Oprah. In two words… Swine Flu.

Twitter has gone mainstream (well… technically it started it’s leap across the chasm to attract the early majority). As the volume of tweets (and searches) accelerates, Twitter is likely taking preventive steps to avoid the dreaded fail whale and unscheduled downtime.

The search limitation probably isn’t a problem for 98% of twitters users. [Update: many readers would like to find old tweets for links to articles or find a movie/club/restaurant review].

“On a personal level, I have trouble keeping up with a handful of CEOs, bloggers and friends. And, I don’t really care if your son beat you at xBox last Christmas.

But, this represents a huge loss to policy makers, marketers, product managers and entrepreneurs who hope to mine Twitter for competitive intel, customer satisfaction, public sentiment, or other business insights.

That leads to a bigger question: What’s Twitter doing with the data?

Is it throwing it away like yesterday’s garbage? Or, will it be charging a fee to data mine your tweets?

Post comments with your theory of the case.

PS> I tweeted this post.


2 Responses to “How long is Twitter’s Memory?”

  1. Johan Lont Says:

    “Why reduce the search “look back” period by an order of magnitude?” My guess is, that it has a technical reason – a lack of resources. My hope is, that Twitter will go back to a longer search period once they have further improved their infrastructure. I often want to retrieve a tweet (of myself or others) that I vaguely remember. Through search, I try to answer questions like: “Was this the movie that I read someone praise so much on Twitter?”.
    I already hated it that I can’t search for twitter updates from my friends who made their updates private, but I understand that Twitter cannot filter the search results based on the group that is allowed access to those tweets. (Even though they could do that, if they really wanted to).

    I like to be able to do a search up to the start of twitter, and I hope that will be possible in the future.

  2. wugya Says:

    Hey! Thanks for having this. I was curious about this because I have a contest coming up and it was really helpful.

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