RealTime IT News

Google Gets Social Search Religion

Today Google launched the Google Custom Search Engine. Call it Google Co-Op for Dummies.

It's the second product in the company's Co-Op line, but this time Google hopes you don't have to be a developer to understand how to use it.

The Custom Search Engine is for individuals, organizations or business that want to add customized Google Web Search to their Web site or blog.

Users can choose which pages they want to include in their index and whether to restrict their search results to include only those pages and sites, or only give those pages and sites higher priority and ranking within the larger Google index.

Users can also decide whether others and which others can contribute URLs to the search engine's index. The search engine's user interface is also customizable.

A Google spokesperson said on a conference call that the company will share advertising revenue with partners who use the product to build a custom search engine for their site.

Partners already include JumpUp.com from Intuit, RealClimate.org, Macworld and Penton Media.

Google Custom Search Engine follows Google Co-Op, which was one of Google's original answers to the call for social search.

Social search is search that asks its users, not automated computers, to index the Internet.

When users find sites that they think might be useful for others or they themselves might want to find again, they save the site into the social search engine's index and tag it with relevant keywords.

The more a URL is tagged with a certain keyword, the more the social search engine understands that URL to be a relevant result when a user uses that keyword as a search term.

But Google built its search empire with automated computers called spiders and a proprietary algorithm designed by scholars, not surfers building tag clouds.

So when Google released Co-Op, it came off as intended for developers only.

That's a problem for social search engines, which need crowds for relevancy.

The floundering gave rival Yahoo a rare competitive edge, as its social search products, such as delicious and Yahoo Answers, enjoyed rapid adoption.

It's a criticism Google vice president of Search Products and User Experience Marissa Mayer told internetnews.com Google kept in mind when developing the new product.

"We understood that Google Co-Op was a product some people did find difficult to grasp," she said. "[Google Custom Search Engine] was designed specifically to make the user experience very easy."

But Google will still not allow users to contribute URLs or keyword tags to its main Web search product.

Third quarter results confirmed that nothing is broken there.

And in fact, because it won't return results from the entire Web as Google Web search would, Google Custom Search Engines will be distinctively branded as not Google Web search, Mayer said.

"We worked very hard to come up with a user interface that makes it clear that this isn't Google Web Search. This is why we allow for the customization."

But while Google still trusts its algorithms and spiders over humans, Mayer at times made it sound like Google's finally got social search religion.

"We would like to see millions of small search engines built on top of the Google search engine that deploy the expertise and knowledge of our end users."