By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 11:12 am
Google’s Searchology event is in a sort of “Just one more thing” format this year: So far, we’ve seen some quick demos of worthwhile tweaks the company has made to Web and mobile search in recent months–good stuff, but not breaking news. Now Google’s Marissa Mayer is talking about Google Universal Search, the technology launched at Searchology two years ago that blends traditional search results, maps, images, videos, products, blog posts, news, and other types of content on one page. Today, more than one in four queries triggers Universal Search results, she’s saying.
Figuring out how to present multiple types of stuff on one results page is a challenge, she’s saying–Google uses what it calls a “bento box” approach, organizing results into boxes based on the type of content.
In November, Mayer reminds us, Google launched SearchWiki–a feature which lets you make notes and knock results up and down on the results page based on whether you like them. It allows users to “keep their train of thought” as they search, and hundreds of thousands of annotations are created each day.
Mayer’s saying that the classic unsolved prooblems in search include finding the most recent information (rather than all information regardless of timeframe), exressing the type of information you want (like reviews), and assessing which results are best for your query. And there are two amorphous pieces: knowing what you’re looking for, and expressing searches as keywords.
Approaching all these issues as one big problem, Mayer says, Google needs to let users slice and dice their searches. It’s launching a new feature called Google Search Options today. Unlike traditional Universal Search, which tried to piece together disparate types of results automatically, Search Options lets you choose various views of results via an left-hand menu you can choose to display by clicking a “Show Options” link:
The options along the left-hand side of the page let you restrict results by timeframe. Or you can show images along with text results:
Or results of a particular type, like videos:
Or reviews–and Google will even attempt to figure out whether the review is mostly pro or mostly con, and extract representative snippets of opinion:
There’s also a timeline view, showing the number of results for different periods in time:
And something called the Wonder Wheel which uses hubs and spokes to let you navigate between related ideas:
In some ways, Search Options reminds me of a traditional search-engine advanced search feature–except you do it after you search. At first blush, it looks pretty darn useful…