Google Boasts of Biggest Index

Search giant Google fired a shot across competitors’ bows Tuesday by boasting of a 6-billion-item index, featuring more Web pages, images, and book-related information.

Google’s “ours is bigger” boast is likely to touch off another of the periodic battles in the search engine size wars. Last August, AlltheWeb claimed to have 3.3 billion Web pages indexed, prompting Google to raise the self-reported size of its Web page index to 3.3 billion. Now, Google says it was 4.28 billion Web pages, 880 million images, 845 million Usenet messages, and “a growing collection” of book-related information pages available through Google Print. Google counts non-HTML pages such as PDF, Microsoft Office, and Corel documents within its Web search index.

The index expansion comes as Google prepares for an IPO and as its media-darling status appears to be in jeopardy. A number of recent articles, in both mainstream and trade publications, have speculated on what the “next big thing” will be, now that Google’s had its time in the spotlight. Drawing attention to the size of its index may be the company’s way of demonstrating it is still an innovator.

Although larger search engine indexes are thought to be helpful for searchers seeking unusual or hard-to-find information, experts say results relevancy is what’s most important. Thus far, relevancy remains a largely subjective measure, as no one has yet developed any standardized way of testing it.

In this latest index increase, Google has dramatically boosted the number of images it includes.

“We’ve doubled the index to more than 880 million images, enhanced search quality, and improved the user interface,” said Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder and president of technology.

Users can search images by size, format (.jpg or .gif), or coloration. Searchers can also restrict results to specific sites or domains.

Though Google didn’t say how many “Google Print” items it has in its index, the company does say the number is growing. Google Print is a service the company is testing that provides searchers with book-related information, including first chapters, reviews, and bibliographic information.

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