If you’ve ever tried searching for past tweets online, you’ve probably found it incredibly frustrating and ultimately futile. That changes today.
On Tuesday, Twitter announced that it now indexes all public tweets dating back to its founding in 2006. Prior to this, the social network’s search engine was more in line with Twitter’s mission to document events in real time, and therefore confined results to tweets published in the last week. The new functionality will open up Twitter’s entire eight-year archive for search, roughly half a trillion tweets in all–more than 100 times more than the real-time index. The company expects this number to grow by several billion tweets each week.
“The full index is a major infrastructure investment and part of ongoing improvements to the search and discovery experience on Twitter,” Yi Zhuang, who helped lead this project, said in a blog post.
Twitter worked on the project in stages, first building a “small historical index” of about 2 billion top tweets in 2012, which it expanded by “an order of magnitude” the following year. The indexing project is especially important given Apple’s purchase of social analytics firm Topsy earlier this year. Topsy was previously the only service offering a full Twitter index search, but in the hands of Apple, its fate is uncertain.
Historical tweets will show up under the “All” search results tab on Twitter’s desktop, iOS, and Android interfaces; eventually, they’ll show up in the top search results as well. Though this was a big project for Twitter, there’s more work ahead for the company: According to Zhuang, their next projects will include optimizing tweets for smart caching.