Google Lifts Lid on Four New Search Tools

Google aims to keep itssearch engine crown, and on Thursday introduced four new products with that goal in mind.

Google Co-op, Google Desktop 4 and Google Notebook are designed to help its users find and share more relevant information. Specifically, the products feature new capabilities that leverage user communities to facilitate two-way exchanges and draw on community expertise to improve search accuracy. The fourth tool, Google Trends, lets users examine billions of searches conducted on Google to gain insight into broad search patterns over time.

“Google Co-op and the other new services announced today combine the power of Google’s technology with the context, knowledge and unique expertise of individuals,” said Google Senior Vice President of Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg. “As a result, users can find the information they are looking for — no matter how specialized or specific — faster than ever.”

A Community Flow

Google hopes its Google Co-op beta community where users can contribute their knowledge and expertise will improve Google search for everyone. Organizations, businesses or individuals can label Web pages relevant to their areas of expertise or create specialized links to which users can subscribe.

Once a user has subscribed to a provider’s content, all of that provider’s labels and subscribed links are added to the user’s search results for relevant queries. These contributions serve as meta information that helps Google’s search algorithms connect users to the most relevant information for their specific query.

For example, a doctor can label Web pages related to arthritis, and users who subscribe to that doctor’s information will receive options at the top of the results for more specific information — such as “treatment,” “symptoms” or “for health professionals” — when they enter a relevant query.

First Steps

As a first step, Google has worked with partners to annotate Web pages related to health and city guides and to offer dozens of subscribed links to specialized content, such as restaurant and movie information. Going forward, the broader online community will begin building out new topic areas and subscribed links to help improve the way people find and discover information online.

“At a conceptual level, Co-op is very interesting, but it’s a little confusing. It’s not a good experience right now, but I think it will improve over time as Google gets more content partnerships and figures out how people are interacting with it,” Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, told TechNewsWorld.

Back to the Desktop

Google Desktop 4 beta — available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch and Brazilian Portuguese — personalizes user desktops with the introduction of Google Gadgets. These gadgets are mini-applications that reside on users’ desktops and deliver a variety of personalized information such as games, media players, weather and news.

Commonly known as widgets, Google currently has hundreds of gadgets users can add to their desktops, and with the new Google Desktop Gadgets API, developers can create and share their own gadgets with other users.

“There’s some real useful stuff in Gadgets. The strategic dimension for Google is more penetration on the desktop and not just the search box,” Sterling noted.

Trendsetting at Google Labs

Google Trends is meant to help users find facts and trends related to Google usage around the world. Google Trends enables users to learn how popular a particular search term has been on Google over time and see the relevant news articles that ran on that subject.

With Google Trends, users will be able to observe the collective interests of all Google users to gain general insight into topics such as people’s preferences on ice cream flavors, “American Idol” contestants, or the relative popularity of brands and politicians in specific countries.

“For the first time ever, Google is making it possible to sift through billions of search queries from around the world to see what people are thinking about,” said Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience at Google.

Organizing Your Thoughts

Finally, Google Notebook lets users to save and organize their thoughts when conducting research online. This personal browser tool permits users to clip text, images and links from the pages they’re browsing, save them to an online “notebook” that is accessible from any computer, and share them with others.

Google Notebook is an interactive scratch pad for every Web site a user visits, offering a single online location to collect Web findings without having to leave the browser window. For example, a user planning a vacation could clip the most relevant materials on pages visited and add personal notes to help organize the research.

“Yahoo is using social search as a differentiator, but Google had not paid a lot of attention to social search,” Sterling observed. “It seems Google has Web 2.0 religion now. It is going to build in more social dimensions to search going forward. That is a significant shift and recognition of the significance of this trend more broadly on line. The lightning rod for all of this is MySpace.com.”

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