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Friday, November 21, 2008

Google Now Lets You Upvote Results and Comment On Them

Google has gone live with a big change to their result pages, at least for those of you who are logged in (if you’re not seeing it yet, it may still be rolled out for your Google Account). It’s called SearchWiki, and lets you edit the position of the results you’re getting, and add comments to them. SearchWiki was in experimental stage for some time now.

Specifically, you’ll be seeing three icons accompanying results, and further options below the listing:

Now, when you change something, you won’t immediately shift around the page for others. For now Google says it’s a mere customization on your end. (You can see all your customizations in one place at the “My SearchWiki notes” page.) However, Google indicates in statements provided to Search Engine Land that they won’t completely rule out the possibility of this impacting everyone’s rankings in the future:

I asked what would happen if 10,000 people all added “Matt McGee’s Widget Page” to their own results for the phrase [widget]. “We’re always looking at user data as a signal,” [Google’s Cedric Dupont] says. And in a situation like that? “We’re not closing any doors.”

Also, once a result was upvoted, you’ll be seeing who else voted for this result, though it will only show compactly as e.g. “[up] 9 [x] 11 - Picked by Rat, Mr, yinan.wu, and others.” This may add a more social feeling to search results. (Google calls it a “community” in their announcement post on this, but we need to keep in mind how diverse this group is, even when they might have stumbled upon the same pages in results.) Note this field won’t show your full email address to others, but your nickname, which you can change on your account profile page.

It’s probably also not a huge jump to imagine that Google could one day extract keywords from the comments of a particular result to aid them in their results selection for exotic queries. And as opposed to a web index, which at least in theory anyone with enough servers could build, the upvotes, hides and comment data is something Google will exclusively own thanks to their (massive) user base.

Now, all these new features come with a certain amount of clutter, naturally. Ionut in the comments remarks, “Google should provide a separate wiki mode (placing a link like ’edit search results’, ’change the results’) that adds voting buttons, commenting options.” I guess doing so wouldn’t get as many people to participate though – which for Google could decrease the valuable crowd intelligence they may tap with this move.

[Thanks Russell O., Tony and Oradzuza!]


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