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Google digs deeper to turn one-stop search shop

Google is about to add more features to its already dominant Internet search engine — and some of the changes could give Web surfers less reason to click through to other sites. That scenario might upset the creators of the material highlighted in Google's results. For instance, one of Google's new tools will assemble the work of other Web sites into a spreadsheet-like format.

business Updated: May 13, 2009 22:15 IST

Google is about to add more features to its already dominant Internet search engine — and some of the changes could give Web surfers less reason to click through to other sites. That scenario might upset the creators of the material highlighted in Google's results.

For instance, one of Google's new tools will assemble the work of other Web sites into a spreadsheet-like format.

Unlike Google's traditional search results, the spreadsheet experiment, called "Google Squared," doesn't simply show a set of Web links related to a search request. It trawls through Google's massive database to organise content in rows and columns.

In a Tuesday demonstration that was webcast, Google showed how a search request made about small dogs through the Squared tool will display pictures next to extensive descriptions about different breeds, on Google's own site. The content was imported from other Internet destinations.

The Squared results show where the information originated, so people can still quickly go to the original source, said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products. She emphasised Google is trying to keep its millions of users happy by helping them make more "informed clicks."

Google already is under attack by newspaper publishers who contend the company unfairly profits by showing headlines and story snippets pulled from their sites. Google maintains it adheres to copyright laws and that it provides ways for blocking content from being indexed by its search engine.

Other revisions coming to Google will include more details, or "snippets," posted under Web links in the search results. And there will be new options that will enable users to specify parameters, such as product reviews.

The changes are expected to roll out in phases during the next few weeks.

Although Google sells ads all over the Web, the company rakes in its largest profits when people click on the marketing messages that appear alongside its search results. That is one reason Google is still trying to widen its lead in Internet search, though it already processes nearly two-thirds of all US queries, according to comScore Inc.

Google has vowed to keep investing in research and development. "We are always striving for the ideal or perfect search engine," Mayer said. She believes Google is about 90 per cent toward its objective, but expects the final 10 per cent to be the most difficult.

Technology does misfire, as Google readily acknowledged at Tuesday’s sneak peek at Squared: a request for information about vegetables returned a spreadsheet that included a row for the sport of squash!