Google adds new filters, visualized results
by Tom Krazit
Google introduced three new enhancements to its search engine Tuesday, giving searchers new ways to filter results and adding new types of data to the search results themselves.
Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and experience, led a parade of the company's product managers on stage at Searchology 2009 to demonstrate the new features, known as Google Search Options, Google Squared, and Rich Snippets. Search Options will be rolling out gradually on Tuesday, giving searchers ways to filter their results based on factors like timeliness, result type such as image or videos, or a desire to see search results in visual form.
The announcements "center around how can you find more, and what can you do with it," Mayer said. Google last held a Searchology event in 2007, when it introduced Universal Search, blending regular search results with images, video, and news results.
Building on Universal Search, Mayer and Nundu Janakiram, an associate product manager, showed how Search Options allows users searching for information on the Hubble Telescope, for example, to filter their results with a "Show Options" link at the very top of the search results page. Clicking on that link brings up a new page with a list of options on the side, somewhat akin to the current Google News user interface.
By opting for the most recent information on the space telescope, the subject of a current NASA mission, users will be given a mix of news and blog results. If they prefer, they can click a filter that will sort those stories with images pulled from those stories.
Other options include new ways to visualize search results, such as the News Timeline introduced last month, as well as something called Wonder Wheel that visually represents data as rays of a star spreading out from the center of a search result.
Google Squared is the newest addition to Google Labs. This project allows searchers to create a spreadsheet based on Web results. Users can filter the data accessed through the Google Squared search, request additional categories to create a custom spreadsheet with the results that matter the most to them, and even fact-check the results by accessing the source of the data as well as alternate sources.
The other enhancement discussed Tuesday is called Rich Snippets, which is a partnership between Google and certain publishers, including CNET, to display information from Web pages within the box that encompasses a search result. Google is backing open standards called RDFa markup and Microformats markup One of the two projects, News Timeline, lets people browse history through Google's eyes, with a sliding chronological framework that draws information from newspapers, Wikipedia, and other sources. The other, Similar Images lets people search for images that look like one they've already found.
Google's R.J. Pittman
(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)Overall, Google wants more people to try its experiments, to "engage the user as soon as possible and get the products calibrated for success," in the words of R.J. Pittman, director of product management for Google's consumer-oriented technology.
Google generally would rather gather feedback quickly and adjust course accordingly than present the world with what it deems to be a completed product, even if that risks having to withdraw products or features that flop or misfire, he said.
"Launch early and launch often," Pittman said. "There's a growing backlog of interesting things coming from Google."
The new labs site, built on Google App Engine, unifies various other labs work, including Gmail Labs, and lets people rate and comment on projects.
"We're trying to create awareness so people know when we're trying out new stuff," Pittman said. "For us to be realistic about the products, to get adaptive, we have to have a fast iteration rate."
that allow Web publishers to highlight aspects of their Web page to show in the search results.
The CNET example used in the presentation displayed the number of stars assigned by a CNET reviewer to a GPS device in the search results for a particular product. Likewise, Yelp's user-generated restaurant ratings will show up in the search result for a certain restaurant.