Twitter now lets you search through its entire archive of public tweets sent since 2006

Twitter 6.8 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

The popular micro-blogging service Twitter yesterday announced that it’s finally indexed every tweet, allowing anyone on Twitter to find any public tweet sent since 2006.

Advanced search is now available on the web and mobile, but not in third-party Twitter clients. Once the company opens up the Search API to developers, apps that analyze and map search terms over time will get better.

The biggest benefit of searching through Twitter’s public archive: no longer do you have to download your entire Twitter archive periodically just to be able to re-visit your old tweets. Before, Twitter search was limited to tweets from the past couple of weeks.

Noting it’s always been its long-standing goal to let people search through every tweet ever published, Twitter shared a number of technical details on the kind of search index infrastructure needed to make the feature a reality, a considerable feat given users have published hundreds of billions of tweets since the first tweet went live over 8 years ago.

For the time being, complete results from the full index will appear in the “All” tab of search results in Twitter’s web client and mobile Twitter apps for iOS and Android.

As explained by our friend Federico Viticci who runs MacStories, several search operators are available in mobile apps and on the web, including

  • from:username — load all tweets sent from a user.
  • since:2009-04-20 until:2009-04-21 — load tweets from specific days.

He notes that search operators can be combined with hashtags in order to fine-tune your search query.  The full list of search operators is available in the below chart shared in Twitters’ FAQ.

Twitter archive search (operators)

Search operators let you, say, search for the first tweets about New Years between December 30, 2006 and January 2, 2007. Or, you could further restrict search to tweets from a specific user by using the ‘from’ operator.

As a bonus, your advanced searches can be saved to reuse later — quite handy if some of your older and probably embarrassing tweets need deleting. You’d first find a tweet and then hit the Delete button to remove it from your timeline permanently.

Twitter archive search (iPhone screenshot 001)

“Over time, you’ll see more tweets from this index appearing in the ‘Top’ tab of search results and in new product experiences powered by this index,” wrote the company. Check out the very first tweet ever sent, credited to Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey.

“The full index is a major infrastructure investment and part of ongoing improvements to the search and discovery experience on Twitter,” explained the firm. “There is still more exciting work ahead, such as optimizations for smart caching.”

This infrastructure change will be rolling out to users over the next few days, the company said. Unfortunately, only Twitter’s official mobile apps support searching through the archive. There was no word at press time whether the feature would eventually come to third-party Twitter clients.

Take Twitter’s advanced search on the web for a spin and let us know what you think down in the comments.

[Twitter Blog]