By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 5:58 pm
“I don’t need ten blue links — just give me the answer!”–Bing Search Blog post, October 2010
“Yahoo Vows Death to the ’10 Blue Links’”–IDG News article, May 2009
It’s funny: Google’s competitors spend a lot of time explaining that “ten blue links”–the traditional search results that we’ve known since the dawn of search engines–are annoying and/or obsolete. But I haven’t noticed any consumer uprising over them, or a mass exodus from search engines that use them. Actually, I suspect that any company that rails against “ten blue links” would cheerfully swap places with Google if it had the chance, dependent on blue links though Google may be.
And at Google’s Inside Search event today, thee was lots of news–but the company didn’t seem to be on a mission to deemphasize traditional results pages. Instead, most of the news was about making the blue links more useful–getting you to them more quickly, in more ways, then letting you get past them and onto a Web page that provides the information (Google would probably say “knowledge” rather than “information” which you’re looking for.
The morning’s announcements included recaps of recent Google search improvements, plus some new ones:
That’s a lot of new functionality to chew on, not all of which is available quite yet. And some of it will require Chrome, at least for now, although Google says it’s using open standards that would let other browsers implement these features, and that it plans to roll some of the new functionality into Google Toolbar.
Almost none of what the company announced today is about eliminating blue links; at most, it’s about supplementing links with additional useful info, as Google Mobile is now doing with its links-and-map view. In that respect, it strikes me as being both extremely ambitious and rather traditional.
As usual at Google events, the spokespeople on stage said (over and over) that Google is obsessed with speed–and in one way or another, everything they showed off today was about making searching faster. It says that it benchmarks how long searches take down to the millisecond, and that the new improvements can shave several seconds off a search, resulting in happier users and a happier Google.
Of course, it said similar things about Google Instant when it announced it last year. If Google watched me search and timed how long it took, I don’t dispute that Instant might be speeding things up, but I’ve never quite warmed up to it: it still makes me feel a bit as if I’m being smacked in the face with search results (some of which are irrelevant ) before I’m ready to look at them. Speed in other words, is unquestionably essential–but I’m not so sure that it automatically translates into a better experience.
I was still impressed overall by what Google showed off today, and I’m looking forward to trying it and writing about it as it rolls out. More thoughts to come…