RealTime IT News

Google Feels a Little Froogle

Not to be outdone by rival search operation Ask Jeeves, Google has quietly launched a beta version of a new shopping search engine cleverly called Froogle, which the company says "makes it easy to find information about products for sale online."

The move follows a deal between PriceGrabber.com and Ask Jeeves earlier this week that resulted in the launch of an Ask.com shopping channel and e-commerce search operation.

Google said that "by focusing entirely on product search, Froogle applies the power of Google's search technology to a very specific task: locating stores that sell the item you want to find and pointing you directly to the place where you can make a purchase."

Visitors to the site can browse through the merchandise categories, or type in a search term to see pictures of items and links to online stores that carry them. There are also sponsored links, which help to pay Froogle's way. Google says it does not accept payment for placement within the actual search results,

A search for "digital cameras," for example, resulted in links to specific cameras on Amazon.com, J & R Music and Computer World, Dell, BestBuy, Office Max and on and on. Results initially are returned on the basis of one product per store, but options include "all products regardless of store."

You can narrow the results by price, and even specify a price range. Froogle, a Google-ish play on the word "frugal," is not a price comparison engine per se, but there are links to other price comparison sites.

"This is a smart move by Google. Segmented search is the future of search," said Ken Cassar, senior analyst at Jupiter Research. "The universe of information that the Web has to offer is simply too vast to be able to effectively handle very specific inquiries efficiently without segmentation."

"Google's execution with Froogle is pretty good," he said. "For example, a search on purses from the Google home page yields 1.6 million results. A search on purses from the women's accessories link on Froogle yields only 2,600 results. Still unmanageable, but far better than Google's broad-based search engine."

There are 14 product categories to browse, including everything from clothing to pets.

Google says its technology crawls billions of Web pages every month, so a merchant's store is likely to be included automatically in Froogle's index of sites. If for some reason your store is not showing up and you would like it to be included in Froogle, you can submit a data feed.

The beta release of Froogle only supports U.S. online stores with English-language Web sites and products priced in U.S. dollars, although plans call for support for multiple languages and currencies down the road.

Google also has been beta-testing a "Search Catalogs" feature of more than 700 mail-order catalogs. However, Google Catalogs limits the vendors that may participate; Froogle does not.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google is a privately held company founded in September 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Funding partners include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital.