Ending hours of speculation, Twitter today updated the way it handles search functions.

One of the most significant changes is the option to see search results only from one’s own network by selecting the “people you follow” view. This will help cut through the noise, particularly when searching for personally relevant conversations instead of what random strangers have posted.

Another of the most obvious changes is search autocomplete, which offers a drop-down menu of terms it determines are most likely to be relevant based on the query as it’s being typed.

This feature is especially useful “if you’re trying to follow the hashtag for an event or you’re looking for a certain Twitter account,” wrote Search and Relevance engineer Frost Li on the official Twitter blog.

Other changes that are now live include: corrected spelling, which shows results for the probably intended query; related suggestions, which points users toward conversations of interest; and results that show mentions of both a person’s real name and his or her user name, which is useful for looking up topics related to famous people.

“These updates make it even easier to immediately get closer to the things you care about,” Li wrote.

Rumors about these changes started Thursday, when Pankaj Gupta, head of Twitter’s Personalization and Recommender Systems group, publicly thanked his team (see below) for the hard work they put into implementing what he implied were revolutionary changes.

Related link:

Twitter blog – Simpler search

Photo by Flickr user Rosaura Ochoa, used under Creative Commons license