When does NOW matter?

10 Mar 2010

Real-Time Web!

Real-Time Web!

Real-Time Web!

Like me you may well be fed up of hearing and seeing this term. However, I'm guessing that you'll be fed up for a different reason to me. I'm actually very excited about the real-time web (I'm sure you'll have noticed) but I want to see it used as more than just a buzz term. I want to see real-time used in the true sense of the term - to mean that something has happened within the last few milliseconds. I want it to mean that the tweet you are reading, the picture you are viewing, the status update you are reading, the event you are being notified of is happening NOW.

Google no longer takes days to index a web site or find a new blog post. For things like blog posts, new web sites, certain types of news and future events it doesn't really matter if we only find out about them within hours of their availability. But with other things such as live events, breaking news and opportunities, seconds, and sometimes milliseconds, really do matter.

When does instant real-time matter? When do you need to be informed that something is happening now? When do seconds, or even milliseconds, really matter?

Here are a few examples that I can think of:

  • Live events - notifications related to live events completely lose their context if they are delivered too late. With live events seconds matter. If there is a system using the live event notifications, such as a betting platform them milliseconds matter. As soon as a goal is scored in a football match betting needs to be temporarily stopped until the odds can be updated to take into account the new scoreline. A good example of this is PickLive Football (previously Football 3's).
  • Alarm notifications - If you have a system hooked into your house alarm, or a power system alarm then delivery of the alarm┬ánotification┬áneeds to be instantaneous so that it can be quickly acted upon. So, a firm such as AlertMe would probably be very interested.
  • Opportunities - If you check in to a cafe using a platform such as Four Square or Gowalla then there is a finite amount of time during which that location update will be valid. During that time there is opportunity for people to meet up with you. Another example might be that an unscheduled event is all of a sudden is taking place. Without instant notification of that event you would miss it.
  • Collaboration and communication - Good examples of this are instant messaging and Google Wave. I'm sure there are loads of other platforms out there where instant updates are required to ensure that people aren't left waiting for a reply and don't spend time composing a replies that are irrelevant or out of date.

I'd love to get your feedback on this so please leave you comments and ideas below.