Google adds tools to help search users dig deeper

Google unveils Search Options and Google Squared at 'state of the union' event

Saying that its users are becoming increasingly sophisticated, Google Inc. today unveiled a list of new search technologies geared to help users 'slice and dice' their Google search results, along with a new tool to help them cull information instead of web pages.

The news came today during an event dubbed Searchology, which was held at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. and streamed across the Internet. A spokesman for Google called the event a "state of the union for search."

"As people get more sophisticated at search they are coming to us to solve more complex problems," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of Google's Search Products, in a blog post. "To stay on top of this, we have spent a lot of time looking at how we can better understand the wide range of information that's on the Web and quickly connect people to just the nuggets they need at that moment. We want to help our users find more useful information, and do more useful things with it."

One of the features announced today is called Search Options, which is a collection of tools designed to let users better "slice and dice" their search results so they can manipulate the information they're getting. Mayer said the tools should help people who struggle with what exactly what query they should pose.

"Let's say you are looking for forum discussions about a specific product, but are most interested in ones that have taken place more recently," she wrote. "That's not an easy query to formulate, but with Search Options you can search for the product's name, apply the option to filter out anything but forum sites, and then apply an option to only see results from the past week."

One Search Options tool is geared to give users more information when they do a search. For instance, instead of just getting results in text form, they could have the search engine return images as well as text.

In that same vein, Google also is adding more information to its results snippets - those little pieces of text that tell you about the site that's been pulled up. If you're searching for a hotel, for example, the snippet won't just tell you the name of the hotel and where it is - now it could tell you its price range, number of stars in customer reviews and the number of reviews listed.

Google can't make that information available on its own, though. The company is asking web site authors to add microformats or RDFa standards, both of which are geared to allow information, like contact data, to be automatically processed by software.

The company also showed off a preview of a tool they're calling Google Squared.

This tool, unlike most search engines, doesn't pull up web pages that hold information about the search query. Instead, it pulls up information from different sites and presents it in an organized manner.

Google Squared is set to be released to users as part of its Google Labs program later this month.

"These features really explore search from a broad and entirely new perspective," said Mayer. "Because we realize that when you can't quickly find just the exact information or content you need or want, it's our problem, not yours."

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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