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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Google Searchology 2009

Today, Google is holding a press event called Searchology, which we also saw in 2007. Their press center says that speakers “will include VP of Search Engineering, Udi Manber, and VP of Search Products and User Experience, Marissa Mayer.” The whole thing is supposed to start at 10:00am PDT, with an accompanying webcast. I’ll be updating this post as new info comes in.

Rumors have it that Google will go live with something they call “Toolbelt” internally, and which was seen in the wild as a prototype before. I’m also hearing rumors about something called Google Squared, a kind of spreadsheet-oriented fact tool perhaps similar in intent to the WolframAlpha engine talked about lately. (Indeed, seems to be registered with Google.) But let’s see what happens, I can’t confirm either of these to be valid, or confirm that either one will be presented today if valid!

Gabriel Stricker walked on stage to welcome people and tell that the event is followed by a Q&A; you can send questions to Gabriel says (perhaps paraphrased), “Our fundamental task really is to be able to present to them [users] the complexity of the web, to meet their sort of growing, sophisticated needs, in a way that continues to be elegantly simply, and straightforward.” He says today, Google will share a number of developments in this area. Udi Manber enters next to talk about search quality, presenting the following slide (Yvo Schaap collects all slides that were shown so far):

“If users can’t spell, it’s our problem.”

After Udi juggled three (apparently fake) eggs, Patrick Riley enters to talk about Google’s “Spellmeleon”, a mix between Google’s “see results for” interstitials (called Chameleon internally), and their “Did you mean?” spellchecker... which for some time now presents results for a different query than the one you entered.

Scott Huffman talks about Google mobile, followed by Marissa Mayer, who explains how “Universal Search” expanded from 2007 to 2009, offering more “rich” results (like direct thumbnails and videos). Marissa mentions the “Bento box” approach – results are organized but still compact. On another note she adds that “hundreds of thousands” of SearchWiki annotations are added every day (SearchWiki is Google’s name for thoise Digg-like features in results).

Marissa announces that Google search options will go live today, as the rumors expected:

From Google’s slide; you can view results sliced into different segments, like recent results, or reviews.

The Wonder Wheel, from a screenshot of the prototype that was around

Also as the rumors expected, Marissa now announced Google Squared, a fact collecting, data extraction tool:

A table shows different types of small dogs and their attributes like weight or group.

Marissa says Google Squared attempts to “take the unstructured web” and built it into structured information. Google’s Matt Cutts at his blog wraps up the Squared demo:

... if you typed in “small dogs” then Google would try to return types of small dogs, along with facts like how much they weigh. It’s easy to add a row to the Square, so you could add a row for Lhasa Apso and Google will try to infer the relevant facts from the web. You can also add new columns, e.g. if you type “energy level” then Google will look for corroborating facts across the web and try to guess the energy level of each type of dog.

The official Google blog says “We’ll be opening it up to users later this month on Google Labs.” More screenshots are available.

Marissa then announced Google “Rich Snippets”:

A result with an average review rating indicator

Google announces that for these rich snippets, they’re now supporting certain annotation standards, like RDFa (but they’re rolling it out gradually based on a whitelist, so not all sites can participate yet). Yahoo too has an initiative – called SearchMonkey – that aims to let webmaster provide structured information about the data contained in pages.

Next in the presentation is an Android phone app called SkyMap, and Q&A follows.

[The presentation ended. This post may be edited as new info comes in. Thanks Yvo, /pd, and everyone else who commented!]


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