If you use google.com/realtime to search for the web's most recent Twitter updates, you may have noticed that the page turns up a 404 error. Does that mean Realtime is experiencing downtime? Yup, and, according to SearchEngineLand, the duration of the search tool's hiatus is a firm "indefinite".
The service is currently down because a data deal with Twitter, its largest info supplier, has recently expired. Google sent SearchEngineLand a response explaining the situation.
"Since October 2009, Twitter has provided Google with the stream of public tweets for incorporation into their real-time search product and other uses. That agreement has now expired. We continue to provide this type of access to Microsoft, Yahoo!, NTT Docomo, Yahoo! Japan and dozens of other smaller developers. And, we work with Google in many other ways."
Google's Realtime search debuted in 2009 with a mission to supply Google.com users access to the internet's freshest information, second-by-second as it was posted. That information included brand new messages posted to Twitter, updates to Facebook fan pages, and user status messages from MySpace and Google Buzz.
It seems odd that the Twitter pipeline carried a chunk of Realtime search large enough to warrant a total shutdown. However, SearchEngineLand points out that, in lieu of a more robust internal Twitter search, Google was the sole means of finding individual tweets that were older than a few days.
Does this mean the everlasting end of tweet-filled Realtime search? Not really. Google says it's open to renegotiation if Twitter considers it. And if those folks don't want to open up talks, there's discussion of integrating Google + into the instant search service as well.