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Big Google Changes to Search, Navigation, Homepage, Ranking

Google has a new vision for how best to organize the world's information and make it even more accessible, at Universal Search debuts today, announced by Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience:

Google's vision for universal search is to ultimately search across all its content sources, compare and rank all the information in real time, and deliver a single, integrated set of search results that offers users precisely what they are looking for. Beginning today, the company will incorporate information from a variety of previously separate sources – including videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites – into a single set of results. At first, universal search results may be subtle. Over time users will recognize additional types of content integrated into their search results as the company advances toward delivering a truly comprehensive search experience.

How it works from the users' perspective:
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.

To accomodate the change in SERPs, Google is "deploying a new technical infrastructure that will enable the search engine to handle the computationally intensive tasks required to produce universal search results."

Google is also releasing the first stage of an "upgraded ranking mechanism that automatically and objectively compares different types of information."

That is not all, however, Google has much more in store:
New Navigation & Homepage 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. For example, a search for "python" will now generate links to Google Blog Search™, Google Book Search™, Google Groups™, and Google Code™, to let the user know there is additional information on his or her query in each of those areas. As a result, users can find a wider array of information on their topic, including data types they might not have initially considered.

Google's homepage and a number of applications have also been updated with a new navigation bar to provide easier access to popular Google products. Now, instead of having links above the homepage search box, users will see a navigation bar on the top left side of the page with various Google search properties and popular products including Gmail™, Google Calendar™, Google Docs & Spreadsheets™, and Picasa Web Albums™.

New Experimental Search Service Google Experimental™ is available on Google Labs™. This new test site provides users an opportunity to try out some of the latest search experiments and innovations and provide Google with feedback. One of the first experiments to be featured on the site enables users to view their search results on a map or timeline. For instance, when someone searches for "Albert Einstein" on Google Experimental, they can choose to view the search results on a map that shows locations mentioned within web pages about Albert Einstein or on a timeline that illustrates the history of Albert Einstein's life.

Donna Bogatin (ZDNet News)
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