Google beefs up Web services, search
May 13, 2009 8:50 PM CT
Google has announced numerous new features that will add to the overall search experience, including ways for users to get facts without clicking through to various Web pages, ways to discover related content, and ways for webmasters to offer more informative text snippets in search queries.
Google is continuing to refine its offerings by beefing up how users can customize its search services. Google executives, led by VP of search products Marissa Mayer, discussed some of the changes being made at the company's annual Searchology gathering, which include a way to "slice and dice" search results, a "Wonder Wheel" for exploring new topics, Google Squared, and rich search snippets.
The slicing and dicing will come via Google Search Options, which Meyer described as a set of tools that will help users put together a variety of media—coming from search results, news, blogs, images, and more. The point of this is to enable people to combine their specific interests with "recency," creating an all-in-one way to find information on a given topic. For example, if you know that you only want to find news articles and images about Craigslist—instead of links to Craigslist itself or random editorials from who knows where—you could put together a listing of news sites and other media that will only show you what you want to see. As part of Search Options, the "Wonder Wheel" will show users related searches on a visual wheel so that they can click around and discover new topics.
Google Squared, on the other hand, will act as a search engine for facts—not webpages. Mayer said that the tool will fetch and organize facts from across the Internet, allowing users to find information quickly and easily without having to click through numerous links. While useful, it's also sure to spark criticism from the blogosphere that Google is still looking for ways to keep users on its own site for longer instead of sending them elsewhere on the Web. This feature will be available to users later this month through Google Labs.
Similarly, rich snippets will aim to provide more complete information in the small block of text displayed under each search result. The goal of this is to provide users with the answers they're looking for right away—again, letting them avoid clicking through to numerous sites that may or may not be useful. Google's latest announcement offers more tools for website owners to control what goes into their rich snippets, too, helping users get a quick idea of what they can find inside.
Individually, the changes don't seem like much to the casual observer, but they are reflective of a continued push at Google to stay meaningful and relevant among an increasingly crowded Web.