Google Gets Up Close and Personal

Internet search giant Google has rolled out new features aimed at making Web searches more personal with user-selected preferences and keywords, plus delivery of search results via e-mail.

The Mountain View, California-based company sits atop the search engine market but is poised to face an avalanche of increased competition as former partner Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon and others begin trying to slice into the search market, which is expected to be worth more than US$14 billion within five years.

Google said its three new features — a search engine that uses personal preferences to tailor results; a service that allows users to receive results by daily or weekly e-mail; and an enhanced interface for its sites — mark a first in the industry in terms of personalizing Web searches. The new features and enhancements are available through the company’s Google Labs branch.

“We can deliver search results tailored to your interests or promptly e-mail you new information on any topic,” Google co-founder and president Larry Page said. “In addition, Google has a cleaner new interface and easy access to the comprehensive Froogle product search,” he added, providing a plug for Google’s months-old e-commerce effort.

Customized Results

Google said its new Personalized Web Search uses preferences specified by Web searchers to deliver customized results. Users can control the degree of personalization of those results using a “slider” scale control.

The company said its Web Alerts are automatic updates for users who wish to receive the latest search results on various topics. By specifying keywords they want to track, users can receive daily or weekly e-mail messages with links to new Web page results matching those keywords, as well as related Google News stories.

Lastly, Google said it has enhanced its homepage and search-result pages worldwide to provide a faster, simpler experience. The main Google pages now link directly to other Google services, such as the Froogle product search site, the company said.

Although the search space is becoming more crowded with ever larger competitors, such as Yahoo and Microsoft — which are purchasing smaller specialty search companies — Google spokesperson David Krane told TechNewsWorld that his company does not view the landscape as any more competitive than when it first launched in 1998 to compete with AltaVista, WebCrawler, InfoSeek and other search-engine leaders of the time.

Getting Too Personal?

Analysts have praised Google’s technological and strategic moves, calling the company a true innovator and setting the stage for Google to pursue an initial public offering.

However, by collecting personal preference information and using it as a basis for delivering other services, the company must consider user privacy, Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio told TechNewsWorld.

“They have to be smart about the way they use the technology,” she said.

Leading and Exploding

Nevertheless, DiDio noted, Google appears to have succeeded once again in providing compelling technology to a hungry audience that likely will appreciate the advances.

“It’s immediate gratification,” she said, comparing the evolution of Internet search with other major computing trends, including the Web, chat rooms, video games and cell phones. “Now it’s becoming more targeted. Now it’s shopping.

“It’s explosive,” DiDio added. “They’re not totally reinventing the wheel, but they’re taking it to the next level, the next dimension.”

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