The tech world is full of the real-time web. Google seems to have missed it, Twitter is on top of it but sucks at indexing it, Friendfeed is the aggregation king, and Facebook might get there by copying Twitter and Friendfeed all along.
Personally I think it is not worth the hassle. Real-time web is a publisher’s thing, not a consumer thing. There are few situations, usually disasters, where I might be in need of a real-time web. The geek will tell you that it is great to be able track what people are saying when a plane crashes, Obama is inaugurated, or a famous pop star dies. The problem I have with those examples is that life isn’t like that every day. Most of the times we get along quite well without the ability to track these rare situations, and when they do emerge we’ll find out about it quickly enough.
Another argument is real-time search. That’s a lot of BS too. there is so much twittering around that it is impossible to get valuable real-time results in search. Google Pagerank uses an algorithm to decide what could be relevant. You may not like the algorithm, but it does attempt to ensure that there is a reasonable objective approach in getting you valuable results. Chit chat isn’t the way to do that. There currently is no algorithm when real-time search is running. There is only people, and the things they publish right now. It leads to a lot of clutter and near-zero value in search.
The Friendfeed crowd will argue that it isn’t about real-time search, but about real-time conversations. I don’t buy that for a minute. Have you ever seen a discussion on Friendfeed? the service gets praised for their ability to let people interact over content. It’s the best service out there. Personally I find many of the “discussions” hardly interesting or useful. There is too much content, too many people, too many comments, no structure in discussions, too many geeks. But most important hardly anyone is actually listening (the basis for ANY good conversation is the ability to listen). A Friendfeed discussion isn’t an interaction, it’s a mob screaming out loud. A voice lost in 2000 other voices. I get much more value out of the posts that are aggregated in Friendfeed than the discussions that take place below them.
The real-time web currently is a geek’s wet dream. I’m sure it will eventually get to a point where people will find aspects of a real-time web useful enough to incorporate it in their lives. But for now I don’t think it is worth all the hassle. I don’t have a “need” for the real-time web. There are more important things in life then having access to a fire hose of unfiltered nonsense. How about getting me the right information at the exact right time!