Google: cool new stuff ahoy!

It's IT Blogwatch, and Google is fighting back against those egghead upstarts at Wolfram|Alpha. Cool new stuff, or hastily-conceived metoos?

Yesterday, la GOOG launched a bunch of new search upgrades, such as Google Squared and Rich Snippets. Richi Jennings watches bloggers work out what's going on. Not to mention In Bb 2.0 by Darren Solomon and you...

Previously in IT Blogwatch:


Rob Hof sets the scene:

Google logo
Amid a flurry of Internet search developments by other companies recently, Google today sought to demonstrate that it’s not ceding any leadership in the Internet’s most valuable territory. At the company’s Searchology event at its Mountain View headquarters, Google announced several new and upcoming features that indicate neither Twitter nor WolframAlpha nor Microsoft is easily going to vault past Google.
...
I suspect that this event was ... aimed at convincing people that Google is already doing, or working on, what its many rivals claim as unique features. The search giant also may want to show that it's not a fat, happy monopolist resting on its laurels because it has rendered others unable to compete. ... That message would be aimed at the U.S. Justice Department.
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Cade Metz digs into Google Squared:

Google is breeding a newfangled search tool that automatically organizes web data into the familiar rows and columns of an ordinary spreadsheet. That may sound trivial. But in Googleland, it’s close to walking on water.
...
Clearly, this involves some sort of contextual analysis of web pages - semantic search, if you will. ... Dubbed Google Squared, this experimental tool will make its public debut as a Google Labs offering "later this month."
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Clearly? Timothy M. O'Brien has the semantic detail:

They have been experimenting with microformats and RDFa, and are officially introducing the feature and allowing more sites to participate. While the Google announcement makes it clear that this technology is being phased in over time making no guarantee that your site's RDFa or microformats will be parsed, Google has given us a glimpse of the future of indexing.
...
While the Semantic Web has been around for years, it has yet to live up to the audacious promises that heralded its introduction to the world. ... the Semantic Web is about more "meaningful" content. We've perfected the art of ... creating massive distributed indexes that produce highly relevant search results, but when you type in "Swine Flu" you are really still dealing with an inefficient indexing approach that doesn't know about the meaning of the text. ... The Semantic Web will allow our searching technologies to become more intelligent.
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Google's Marissa Mayer and Jack Menzel are like proud parents:

As people get more sophisticated at search they are coming to us to solve more complex problems. To stay on top of this, we have spent a lot of time looking at how we can better understand the wide range of information that's on the web and quickly connect people to just the nuggets they need at that moment.
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Search Options ... are a collection of tools that let you slice and dice your results and generate different views to find what you need faster and easier. ... "Rich snippets" extract and show more useful information from web pages than the preview text that you are used to seeing.
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Paul Bonanos offers this grab-bag of a miscellany:

Some of the other new wrinkles to Google’s search results include:
  • An improved “Did you mean?” function that provides alternate results for potential misspellings ...
  • Blended mobile search rankings that indicate whether a site is optimized for mobile devices ...
  • The “Wonder Wheel,” which visualizes search results in clusters.
    more


But Daniel Tunkelang is... less than impressed:

On second thought, it’s a bit of a rehash of features they’d already rolled out, and that I personally didn’t find overwhelming. ... Still, I’m pleased that their marketing language is embracing HCIR–that’s a big step for a company that has perhaps done more than anyone to emphasize the primacy of relevance ranking in the search interface.

Even if they’re only taking baby steps at this point, I am cautiously optimistic that they will build on them.
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And Ian Davis calls it, "a damp squib":

A closer look reveals that Google have basically missed the point. ... The RDFa support is limited to the properties and classes defined on a hastily thrown together site. ... That means everyone has to rewrite all their data to use Google’s schema if they want to be featured on Google’s search engine.
...
The result is a hobbled implementation of RDFa. They’ve taken the worst part – the syntax – and thrown away the best – the decentralized vocabularies of terms. It’s like using microformats without the one thing they do well: the simplicity. ... It seems odd that Google, a company that thrived on the open messy web, seeks to ignore it and go for a controlled vocabulary.
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And finally...


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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter or FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: contact Richi.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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