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Google Is Getting All Twitter-Like for the Republican Debate

January 26, 2016, 11:06 PM UTC
GOP Presidential Candidates Debate In Charleston
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JANUARY 14: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speak during a commercial break in the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The sixth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top seven candidates, and another for three other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Photograph by Scott Olson — Getty Images

During live events like the presidential debates, news junkies are often staring at Twitter to catch commentary and responses to the on-screen action as it happens. Now, it seems Google would like to capture some of that behavior too, because the search giant is rolling out some real-time features as part of a deal with Fox News, the host of the Republican debate on Thursday.

A blog post from Google on Tuesday describes the new feature: When a user searches for the term “Fox News debate,” they will see information “cards” from each of the major candidates pop up at the top of their search results.

These cards will contain photos, videos and text outlining the political platform of each candidate, Google (GOOG) says. The information will be submitted by the campaigns, and can be updated during the debate, and each card is shareable. Candidates will be able to outline their stance on various issues and rebut the claims of others.

Google debate info

If this sounds a lot like something Twitter might do, it is. In fact, it is very similar to things Twitter has done previously for special events, such as creating a hashtag that makes it easy to follow a discussion (and see relevant ads), and even creating one of its “Moments” curated experiences that collect images and tweets.

In Google’s case, however, the candidates get 14,400 characters in which to argue their points and share details of their platform, whereas Twitter is still limited to 140 characters. The campaigns can also share up to 10 videos and photos.

Twitter rumored to increase character limit to 10,000

Twitter has reportedly been thinking of expanding the maximum size of a tweet to as much as 10,000 characters, and the service also has its own card-style expanded tweets that can include excerpts from blog posts, as well as photos and videos. But Google’s new feature involves far more real estate than Twitter can currently offer.

The search giant is also adding some other features for the debate including real-time information from Google Trends showing which candidate is being searched for the most. And Google will be embedding poll questions in its search results as well, the results of which will be covered by Fox News after the debate is over.

Google debate info2

Thanks to a partnership with Twitter—which Google renewed last year after more than four years without a deal— the search company can also show relevant tweets from both the candidates themselves (and anyone else who is tweeting about the debate) in search results. But the new features show that Google wants to do more than just that, as part of its ongoing effort to make its search results more relevant in real time.

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If Google really wants to make its results more real-time, of course, one thing it could do is acquire Twitter outright, since the rapid decline of Twitter’s share price makes the company a potentially more appealing takeover candidate. But as we pointed out in a recent article about Twitter acquisition speculation, Google may be happy to just get a feed of Twitter’s results and add that to its own real-time features.