Speaking in Japan yesterday, a Google spokesman confirmed that the giant search-engine company wants to offer social-networking style search results. It's Google's latest tweak, and it comes as Microsoft launches its rival Bing search engine.
Google has really been pushing new features lately, and getting news interest as developments like Wolfram Alpha and Twitter's live search seem to be innovating how search engines work. But when speaking to reporters, Google's Group Product Manager Ken Tokusei revealed another new angle that the company is investigating—personalized, social-network style results to search queries. He noted that people are using the net more and more to find out more personally-relevant soft information like restaurant recommendations rather than traditional hard fact searches. Tokusei then acknowledged that Google would like to weave in search responses from people you're acquainted with, and admitted that "We haven't gotten to the point where results are seen as if they come from someone you know." For now, Google will add a slightly personalized, more human angle to search queries by letting users rate search responses and delete unrelated links.
The social-relevant search is a tricky task, since it requires a degree of information about the user, and some clever context-sensing software if Google is to get its responses right. In contrast, if you publish a query using your Facebook wall, asking for a restaurant recommendation perhaps, then the responses you'll get from your pool of friends are already personalized, thanks to the social network that binds Facebook together. That's tough competition for Google, since it doesn't have that type of structure.
Google is also about to face another new competitor: Microsoft. The tech titan is putting the finishing touches on a new search engine that's been codenamed Kumo and will soon launch under a new name: Bing. Though it's likely that Microsoft will have to battle to steal market share from Google, its developers have been working to revise Bing from its earlier Microsoft Live search format, and they've been adding lots of clever functionality.
According to AdAge, Microsoft is, in fact, about to launch an $80+ million ad campaign that suggests there's something amiss with the existing search engines—basically Google—and will push Bing as the cleverer alternative. The trick is to get people to reconsider how good a response they get from their search engines, and tackle some of the psychological pull Google's big name generates.
Google, of course, has the benefit of huge sums of money and a vast developer team, so it'll likely just keep innovating itself to compete. The battle will be interesting to watch, though.
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