Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Google's New Search - Step in the right direction - Still some ways to go

Google today announced it's new search technology aka Universal Search:

Google Begins Move to Universal Search

Google Introduces New Search Features and Unveils New Homepage Design

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (May 16, 2007) – Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced its critical first steps toward a universal search model that will offer users a
more integrated and comprehensive way to search for and view information online...

"Our focus has always been making our users' search experience as simple and straightforward as possible," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google. "The ultimate goal of universal search is to break down the silos of information that exist on the web and provide the very best answer every time a user enters a query. While we still have a long way to go, today's announcements are a big step in that direction."
"Google has continued to concentrate on improving the quality of search," said Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at Google. "The level and speed of search innovation at Google has increased. Most of this innovation addresses basic ranking algorithms and is often not obvious to users. Users just see more accurate results, more often, in more languages, which is our primary goal."

New Navigation Features

New dynamically generated navigation links have been added above the search results to suggest additional information that is relevant to a user's query. .....

I tried out Google Search today on various queries regarding "baseball" to understand the differences and whether it yields better, "integrated and comprehensive" results.

Here were some results for various queries starting with "baseball":

In this particular query for "baseball", Google Search is confusing, since the user is inundated with two sets of navigation links: the always present static links at the top, and the dynamically generated links below the search. As an end user, which link should I click on if I want more information? Images link in the top static bar? or Images link shown under the dynamic bar? News link in the top static bar? or News link in the dynamic bar? I think Google needs to fix this or represent the dynamic bar links in a different manner so as to indicate that there is interesting information available. For now, whether you click on the Images link in the static bar or in the dynamic bar, the results are the same. Also, the overall query results for "baseball" did not show anything more interesting than what was shown before in the query results (old Search).

The query for "baseball bat" produced better results. It not only showed me the text search results for baseball bat, but also showed me image results for baseball bat which made the results "interesting". In the case of "baseball bat" query, the dynamic links were different: only three links were shown - Web, Images and Products. Again, the Images dynamic link yields the same results as the Images static link. Hence, it is a bit confusing. Another confusing static link at the top was "Gmail" - clicking on Gmail yielded nothing except asking me to sign-up for Gmail. I am thinking that if you are logged in to Gmail, it may perhaps show something different. Either way, the static link for "Gmail" at the top did not provide anything meaningful. The Products dynamic link for "baseball bat" was definitely a plus, since clicking on the Products link yielded the following result:

Now, I was able to find baseball bats available for sale. This made sense. I think Google needs to visually present this better - perhaps embed a couple of Products snapshot on the main page.
I tried one more search: "baseball cap" since I wanted to buy a new baseball cap for my favorite baseball team. However, the results were disappointing: in this instance, the dynamic links shown were only for the Web and Images. And clicking on Images link produced the same results as would have appeared were you to click on the Static Images link. I was hoping to have found the Products dynamic link to find the baseball cap of my favorite team. However, this was not to be. Having said that, the usual Web search does provide links to product sites.


Google's new search technology is an early effort towards making searching for information better. Google has the right vision of integrating the search across various dimensions of Web, Images, Video, Products, etc. and providing comprehensive results. However, implementing this algorithm for new search, producing the results in parallel, and showing the results in a visually appealing and contextually easy-to-understand manner is going to be key as Google moves forward. Google may also be faced with the problem of what a majority of the user population may be seeking: a simpler answer to their search query. The more sophisticated users may appreciate the comprehensive answer that Google will provide. How would Google know whether the user is a layman user or a sophisticated user? One thing is certain though: Google has the ability to mine the world's information and present it in a contextual setting that is relevant to the user. Google just needs to make sure that in creating a new search, it does not make it confusing for the end user, as this would be huge step backward.


Google is one of the top 20 innovators of The Innovation Index.

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