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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Google Oneboxes to the Right Side

Sartaj sent in a screenshot of a special Google result experiment he was seeing while searching for Bono Coexist: a YouTube video box to the right side, along with thumbnail*. I was not able to reproduce this – it’s often the case that result experiments are only shown to a portion of users in order for Google to get some usage data – but Valleywag’s Jordan Golson sent in a ping as well with more screenshots showing not only video, but also product results to the right side. Now, the sidebar is usually the place for Google to display AdWords ads, but it looks like here they are experimenting with putting these so-called “onebox” results there.

Why might Google be testing this prototype? This is just speculative, but I can imagine a couple of reasons, including mixtures of those reasons:

  1. Google wants to accomodate for ever-growing screen resolutions.
  2. They want to train users to deem the right-hand side of result pages relevant again, thereby as side-effect increasing click-throughs when ads are displayed there.
  3. Google wants to unclutter the main organic results to the left, fearing that too many thumbnails and buttons and what-not start to confuse some searchers (like those who were just looking for a quick pointer to a webpage).
  4. They want to “decouple” the ideally more objective & neutral organic results from the more biased or hand-picked** Google product cross-integrations (which could in turn come in useful both to be more fair to searchers in regards to already existing cross-integrations, while also maybe allowing Google to try get away with more aggressive product pimping... e.g. potentially openly preferring YouTube to Metacafe, Checkout to PayPal etc. in the sidebar).

[Thanks Sartaj Chuck Chowdhury and Jordan!]

*If you look at the top “Try your search on ...” line you will note Chuck’s screenshot shows some more peculiarities, but those are due to a Firefox extension.

**For instance, Google News results are appearing as onebox in-between organic results as part of the “universal search” approach, but Google News is not fully algorithmic – the news publications that make it into the service are hand-picked by Google employees. (Even algorithms used for organic results are human-made and human-tested, of course, but for better or worse Google News is still another step away from what you may consider neutral.)


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