Twitter turned on its new "popular" tweets feature in its search page last night, bubbling the three most popular tweets to the top of any search result. Previously, search results were only offered according to time, not any form of relevancy.
In addition to the search feature showing up on search.twitter.com, the functionality has been turned on in Twitter's search API, so we're likely to see this sort of thing showing up in third-party clients soon, as well.
Don't be confused if popular search results aren't showing up when you search directly from the Twitter homepage - you need to specifically go to search.twitter.com for these new results to come up. For some reason, searching from the right-hand sidebar gives only results ordered by time.
From the Twitter API Google Group on how tweets will be ordered:
With this new project, we want to make real-time search even more valuable by surfacing the best tweets about a particular topic, by considering recency, but also the interactions on a tweet. This means analyzing the author's profile, as well as the number times the tweet has been retweeted, favorited, replied, and more. It's an evolving algorithm that we'll be iterating on & tuning until practically the end of time.
While the Twitter search returns only three results, the API should return more if desired. The API is opt-in, as we wrote last time, and offers the ability to get only new results, only popular results, or a mix.
We're immediately wondering how this might be used with the geocoding variable. Will we see similar functionality to the location trending on Foursquare or Gowalla? What does mean to identify tweets as singular hubs of conversation, like we see with Techmeme? Trending topics are just that - topics surrounded by many tweets. This makes the focus center not around many people talking about a topic, but instead a few tweets that many people are centering around. We know we've seen similar implementations with the likes of TweetMeme, but now that it's in the API, what will we see next?