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.”

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