RealTime IT News

Google Finds New Search Answers

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Newsflash: Google is driven by search. That may seem brain-dead obvious.

But with the world's biggest Internet search company expanding to other areas, such as social networking, company CEO Eric Schmidt took pains to underscore that Google's mission hasn't changed.

"Search is the unifying solution," said Schmidt at an event here for press and analysts at the company's headquarters. "We have two major competitors [Microsoft and Yahoo] with scale, talent and cash but none of the others are emphasizing 70 percent [of their resources] to the search model." A key part of that model includes the advertising results that drive much of Google's multi-billion revenue.

Today Google unveiled new services that build on its search mission: Google Co-op, Google Desktop 4, and Google Notebook.

Co-op and Desktop 4 are available in beta test versions, though Google has a good track record of releasing very solid versions of what it calls beta or pre-release products. Google Trends and Notebook are from Google Labs with Trends available now and Notebook next week.

Trends will get the most attention from current and potential Google advertisers, as well as anyone who wants to measure what areas of interest are hot or not among Google users.

Trends opens up Google search results to the public to check interest in specific search terms. Graphical results show peaks and valleys over time and also show results for specific regions of the country.

"A company like Lexus can run an ad campaign in New York or Los Angeles for a new car and then look at the queries and literally see how much interest there is," Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice president of product management for Google, told internetnews.com. "Or think what a political campaign can do with this."

However, trends is not updated regularly. Results could be as much as a month old in this initial roll out.

Like all four new services, Trends is a free service.

While the usefulness of Trends is obvious, Rosenberg said Co-op will take a bit longer for people to figure out but he thinks long term it was the most significant announcement of the day. Co-op is a essentially a network of various experts and organizations users can subscribe and contribute to.

"We're not experts on everything, but we have a huge partner network and want to leverage their expertise," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google.

Anyone in the Co-op community can label Web pages relevant to their areas of expertise or create specialized links for others to subscribe to. Once you've subscribed to a particular provider's content, say a Web site about sports equipment, that information is added to the user's search results. The next time you do a search for "left handed baseball gloves" the most relevant information from the Co-op will show at the top of the results.

Google has worked with partners with health and city guides and other specialized content to get Co-op started.

Rounding out the announcements, Google Desktop 4 is an update to Google Desktop. Probably the most significant new feature is Google Gadgets, mini-applications that reside on users' desktops and can deliver a wide range of fun to serious personalized information. A weather globe actually shows rain falling when its raining. Media players and various animations can also be Gadgets, which Google said are easy to create.

Google Notebook is a kind of an onscreen notepad to easily store notes, Web links, images, text and other information while searching online. The main benefit? Notebook is easily accessible on the screen so you can cut and paste information and continue searching without leaving the page. One example: Grab a bunch of items, the actual images and items, from an online store, and stick them in Notebook to compare later with similar items found at another Web site.

So what's next for Google?

Sergei Brin, Google's co-founder and president, technology, said the company will continue to be aggressive in its R&D efforts. In response to reporters' questions on the subject, Brin said Google is a lot less concerned by what competitor's like Microsoft and Yahoo are doing than by where Google can innovate. "We've been limited, not so much by capital, but by how quickly we can use it and take advantage of it."