Overview of Google’s Announcements this past Wednesday

May 16th was a fascinating day. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a major press announcement by Google in Mountain View, at an event that Google called “Searchology”. In this announcement, Google announced four significant enhancements to search as we know it:

  1. Universal Search: This is the biggee. Now when you use Google’s web search interface, you will get results from their web index, and from book search, local search, GoogleMaps, image search, news search, and blog search. Some of the highlights include the presentation of video thumbnails with one click access to see the video, or even an entire movie, inline on the web results search page, direct display of images, one click access to pulling the entire text of a book, etc.

    What this gets you is a potential relevance boost in the results you get. For my detailed thoughts about this, check out my articles on Search Engine Watch: Will Universal Search Drive Universal Domination? and Will Universal Search Drive Google’s Vertical Search Properties?.

  2. Contextual Navigation Links: As another step in this integration, Google is now listing their search properties across the top of their results pages. These are being done on a contextual basis. So the links you see listed across the top will vary depending on the search query you have just entered. If you search on Britney Spears picture, you will see a link for “Images”, but if you type in Nosferatu (a classic horror film), you will see links for both “Images” and “Video”.

    Of course, we we mentioned before, you can play the full movies (all 84 minutes) right there in the search results.

  3. Universal Navigation Bar: Google also announced a Universal Navigation Bar, which shows up across the very top of their results pages. This lists all the major products. And for those of you who were painfully aware that it took 8 clicks to get to your Gmail account previously, you can now do it in one click.
  4. Google Experimental: Many of the things that are normally found over at Google Labs will now be found over at Google Experimental, but Google Labs is still being continued. The difference is that you, as a user, can sign up for Google Experimental, and then all of your searches will use the new features they are testing. Want to see the latest stuff in advance? Now you can make it a part of your everday experience.

    One great thing you can see right now through Google Experimental is the “view” concept. If you search on thomas jefferson view:timeline, you will see a completely different presentation of the search results. Here is a screen shot of what it looks like:

    Google Timeline View

    Or, you can search on pga tours view:map and get a completely different search result.

Another cool thing that Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering, talked about as a future development was the notion of Cross Language Information Retrieval. As part of this, they will be keeping many whole copies of the web, each translated into different languages (with 12 languages to start). They will then take your search query and translate it into each of those 12 languages, find the best result, and then translate that result back into the language of the searcher.

There was a lot of stuff in here, and participating in the experience was great fun. I will be writing more about this here in this blog, and at Search Engine Watch over the next few weeks.

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