Google "Universal Search": Search gets snazzy!

Google's Universal SearchFor all you folks who helped make the term "Google" a verb, get ready for a snazzy new search experience. At the recent Searchology summit held in its Mountain View HQ, Google execs made public a whole slew of features aimed at augmenting the company's core competency, Web Search. Termed "Universal Search," Google seeks to integrate video, books, maps, local search, and news into universal results to provide a complete search experience.

More of the features announced were:

  • Universal Navigation Bar: A feature designed to make it easier to check Gmail from the Google homepage, as well as use other Google services directly from your Gmail account.
  • Google Experimental: Another product of Google Labs to let people experiment with new Google features and contribute their experiences.
  • Automatic query search: If you search for "overhead view of bellagio pool," Google will also try "bellagio pool pictures." If you search for "F-15 launch launched from a sub," Google also tries "F-15 submarine launch." For "distance from Zurich Switzerland to lake como Italy," it'll try "train Milan Italy Zurich Switzerland."
  • Context-sensitive search: Emphasis on local search.
  • Cross-language information retrieval: Search for information in 12 different languages and have those results cross-referenced to return the best results in English.
  • Query refinements: This feature, which probably has been there for some time, makes suggestions at the bottom of the page for misspelled words.

Here's an excerpt from the Official Google Press Release:

"A user searching for information on the Star Wars character Darth Vader is likely interested in all the information related to the character and the actor – not just web pages that mention the movie. Google will now deliver a single set of blended search results that include a humorous parody of the movie, images of the Darth Vader character, news reports on the latest Lucas film, as well as websites focused on the actor James Earl Jones – all ranked in order of relevance to the query. Users no longer have to visit several different Google search properties to find such a wide array of information on the topic."

For a scoop on all the news: Blogs:

It's interesting that Google's announcements come in the wake of rumors of a mega-merger of its rivals Microsoft and Yahoo. The acquisition of YouTube, closer integration of Gmail and Google apps, and now the marshalling together of its technologies to deliver content (not just text) universally… Are these events raising the stakes for a Google / Microsoft-Yahoo showdown? Join the discussion.


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The example of searching for Darth Vader points to the problem. When I'm searching, I'm looking for very specific things, I don't want to wade through dozens of links to things that are irrelevant to my particular interest. For example, as something of an exercise, I tried to find one specific piece of information on the weekend. Both for my own interest, but also as a kind or training exercise for my own search skills. "What is the highest rpm ever reached by a piston engine". I'm not interested in types of engines or the usual range of rpms or whether it's a practical engine or the scaling rules in mechanics. All I want is one page showing the one piece of information I'm looking for. The rpm and the engine that did it. I spent several hours and have not been able to find it. I've also challenged others and none of them have found it either. This is not an isolated experience, it happens all the time, and usually I give up eventually and walk away with a sour taste in my mouth. This is not to say Google is not useful in a lot of cases, or that there other tools are russish. I quite like the philosophy behind a lot of their work. It's just that the "solution" to search not working always seems to be to add even more irrelevant pages to the lists, rather than to focus the search more tightly. Regards


If I type "how to X" I would like the context of that search to be relevant. I don't want sites that will sell me "X" or news articles about "X". Google just ignores the "how to" part as "too common". I wouldn't mind the ads if the searches were more contextual.


So, when is Google going to acquire a company like Amazon and make fiction a reality? ;)

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

TechRepublic blogger Arun Radhakrishnan highlights Google's "Universal Search," which seeks to integrate video, books, maps, local search, and news into more comprehensive results that provide a complete search experience. "It's interesting that Google's announcements come in the wake of rumors of a mega-merger of its rivals Microsoft and Yahoo." Arun asks the TechRepublic community, "Does this raise the stakes for a Google / Microsoft-Yahoo showdown?"

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