Thursday, May 11, 2006

Google Unveils New Search Services, Software

Google Unveils New Search Services, Software
by Shankar Gupta, Thursday, May 11, 2006 6:00 AM EST
GOOGLE WEDNESDAY UNVEILED A NEW feature that allows users to search for detailed information--including content created and annotated by users--in a variety of categories.

Initially the feature, dubbed "Google Co-op," will be limited to the health and city guide categories, but eventually it will include 16 verticals. The health service--which company executives demonstrated Wednesday--allows health care professionals and experts to annotate Web pages; users can then subscribe to the service and receive the notes in their main search results page.

Google executives announced the new services at the company's annual "Press Day," which was held at its Mountain View headquarters, and also streamed live on the Web. In his opening remarks, CEO Eric Schmidt said that Google intended to focus on consumer-generated media. "People have a lot to say," Schmidt said, adding that Google wanted to help users generate content, and also organize and search for work created by fellow users.

Marissa Mayer, vice president for search products and user experience, added that Google hopes to leverage the expertise of its users to better organize pages. "We asked 'what could we do that would leverage the expertise of our users and partners to make search better?'" Mayer said. "We're excited to take the Tom Sawyer view, and see how our users paint the fence."

Greg Sterling, principal analyst for Sterling Marketing Intelligence, said Google's emphasis Wednesday on consumer-generated content marks a turning point for the company, which traditionally has been relatively weak in the medium. "They didn't anticipate the rise of MySpace, and I thought that that was an area where Yahoo was investing very heavily," he said. "Every new company that comes into view has some sort of social layer, and they really hadn't done much. This seems to be a much broader and bigger push and a recognition of that."

Google also announced several other new products: A new version of Google Desktop Search which adds new "gadgets" to the desktop program; Google Notebook, which allows users to save search results onto a page which can then be saved and transferred into other applications; and Google Trend, a search function that enables users to track how often terms are searched for on the main search page.

The cornerstone of the new beta release of Google Desktop Search, 4.0, is "Google Gadgets," a collection of mini-programs that can be attached to the Google Desktop sidebar. Similar to Yahoo's "Widgets," the Gadgets can include news, weather, media players, and games. Users can also create their own Gadgets, similar to the modules on the Google Personalized Home Page.

Google Notebook is a simple add-on to the main search page, which adds a small window to which search results can be added. The window can then be expanded to full-screen to rearrange and annotate the saved search results. MSN's Virtual Earth product included a similar "scratch pad" function, which allowed users to save locations and local search results on a small window.

Google Trend is an extension of the Google Zeitgeist feature, and allows users to perform trend searches on any set of keywords, showing how often the given terms were searched for over a given time period. The results can be further broken down by geography.

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