I’ve got a bad case of the shakes today, and it has nothing to do with the M-80s and bottle rockets going off into the wee hours last night. No, over the long weekend I was cast out of realtime. I had no warning, no time to prepare for my reentry into the drab old chronological order. I feel like a refugee living in a crappy tent in a muddy field on the outskirts of some godforsaken country. I know exactly how T. S. Eliot felt when he wrote “Ridiculous the sad waste time / Stretching before and after.”
What happened is that Google turned off its spigot of realtime results. I still see the “Realtime” option in the drop-down list of search options, but when I click on it it returns nothing. Just a horrifying whiteness, like a marble tombstone before the letters are carved. And the “Latest” option for arranging results that used to appear in the lefthand column of search tools has been replaced by “Past hour.” Past hour? Are you kidding me? Why not just say “Eternity”? I freaking lived in “Latest,” with its single page of perpetually updated results, punctuated by pithy little tweets from all manner of avatarial life. It was pure pre-algorithmic democracy, visceral as raw beef.
Now, the stream is dry.
Apparently this all stems from some tiff between Google and Twitter. The two Internet Goliaths – okay, one Goliath and one mini-Goliath – had a pact that allowed Google to stream tweets in its results, but that agreement went kaput on Saturday. So on Sunday morning Google put a cork in the firehose. And left me an exile from realtime.
Time itself is contingent on the vagaries of online competition. As flies to wanton boys we are to the Gods of the Net.
I take some solace from a statement that came out of the Plex on Sunday: “We’ve temporarily disabled google.com/realtime. We’re exploring how to incorporate our recently launched Google+ project into this functionality going forward, so stay tuned.”
Living in realtime is all about staying tuned. Staying tuned is the way we live today. Rest assured, Googlers, that I will keep hitting Refresh until “this functionality” returns. The alternative is too distressing to ponder. I need my Now.
This post is an installment in Rough Type’s ongoing series “The Realtime Chronicles,” which began here.