Facebook Teaches Us Real Real-Time

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 03/19/2009

In 2006, I developed HitTail and understood the age of real-time was upon us. I used timed polling (or pulling, depending on your preference) to scroll the search hits in front of you as they occur, which was perfect for the time.

I was convinced that an event-based push-model was imminent, and we would see a flood of Web-based real-time apps.

Flash forward 4 years, and still almost no mainstream apps switched over to real-time. That is until last Friday when Facebook made their homepage update right as people change their status. No need to refresh the page!

Just sit there and watch the newsfeed scroll there in front of you, sort of like watching TV as people you know broadcast little snippets of their lives.

The time in between 2006 and last Friday’s new homepage launch, real-time seemed relegated to instant messaging like Meebo and GTalk. Could no one see the broader implications? Was IM the only application where people “get” the value of up-to-the-second information? What about breaking news? What about discussion boards like Yahoo! Groups? What about Web analytics software? What about the host of NEW aplications it makes possible?

Well, Facebook once again goes a long way towards educating the public, and guiding them into the future. Sometimes they’re dragging the public kicking and screaming–because there are so many of us that fear change.

But if anyone didn’t really “get” real-time, they will now, because feeding that hunger for human interacton via status updates without having to hit F5 happens to be the killer app for real-time. I thought it would be stock quotes. Go figure.

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