wowdGoogle has conspicuously avoided adding “real-time” search results to its search engine. By real-time, we mean the sort of results offered by Twitter — or items submitted a mere second or two earlier by any of a million sources.

There’s not even a real-time project in Google Labs, so now is a good time for startups to try to run ahead, grabbing market share and, hopefully, loyal customers.

Wowd is a Palo Alto-based startup packed with search engine veterans. Advisor Mike Cassidy was a co-founder and CEO of Direct Hit back in the Web 1.0 days. Draper Fisher Jurvetson, KPG Ventures, and the Stanford University Engineering Venture Fund all provided seed capital.

I had a two-hour talk with CEO Mark Drummond about the technology behind Wowd. Here’s the gist of what it does: Instead of calculating the rank of Web content based on who links to who, Wowd weights content based on what gets clicked on. Wowd, to simplify, ranks results not based on what Internet users say, but on what they do.

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That, plus a bunch of other factors including the time the content was published, are used to create a Popularity ranking for indexed content that changes by the minute.

Wowd can also sort results by Freshness, which is a spam-filtered reverse chronological order. There’s a Wowd toolbar, which is where the clicks on who clicked what get tracked. Drummond was intent on convincing me of Wowd’s smart privacy and security controls. What I wanted to know was how he’ll keep the content from becoming nerd-centric, like Digg.

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Drummond explained the technology behind the page: “Wowd was designed from the ground up to be a real-time index that’s able to store many trillions of distinct data items (typically, URLs). Wowd does use Twitter as one source, to determine what new URLs are important to people on the web.
“But you can’t actually search for Tweets in Wowd. Instead, Wowd uses Tweets as a signal to find and index pages on the web, and uses the text in a Tweet as an additional indication of what the indexed page is all about. So in a sense, Wowd just uses Twitter as kind of crawler, to find pages. The main source of pages in the Wowd index is the human-powered nomination that comes from the cloud-based architecture.”

Businesswise, Drummond obviously thinks he can outrun Google, just as Google once outran AltaVista and Excite.

Wowd is currently in an invite-only beta testing phase. The first 300 VentureBeat readers who sign up at Wowd.com with with the invite code jb05qhkop16d7n will be automatically approved instantly.