Google refuses to rest on its search laurels

You'd think a company with upwards of 70% market share might get a bit complacent when it comes to rolling out new features and functions. Not so Google. It just unveiled a list of new search technologies that not only promise to make it more useful, but may just stop upstart search newcomers like Twitter and Wolfram Alpha in their tracks.

The new search features, unveiled at Google's Searchology event, not only provide better tools for sifting through search results, but also bring Google a step closer to real-time search (ala Twitter) and knowledge-based search (ala Wolfram Alpha). For example, Google unveiled Search Options, which lets users filter results based on certain parameters. In the Official Google Blog, Marissa Meyers, Google's VP of search products, explained the tool this way:

Let's say you are looking for forum discussions about a specific product, but are most interested in ones that have taken place more recently. That's not an easy query to formulate, but with Search Options you can search for the product's name, apply the option to filter out anything but forum sites, and then apply an option to only see results from the past week.

So not only can users filter results based on categories, like forums, but they can also filter based on time, which means Google is coming tantalizingly close to providing a real-time search capability. In fact, the filter offers options including "past year," "past week" and "past 24 hours," with an additional filter of "recent results."

GigaOm's Paul Bonanos tried out the tool in search of real-time results and found that for the most part, Google delivered. For example, several searches he attempted produced results just 20 minutes old, along with others ranging from a day to a few months old. And while 20 minutes isn't on par with Twitter's more instantaneous results, Google's results have the added benefit of relevancy. As Bonanos says:

During breaking news events, real-time Twitter search has proven itself to be at least interesting, and often crucial. But real-time results can often be cluttered with irrelevant or needlessly repeated data, so that a broad search can be a waste of time. Google makes up for its lack of immediacy by improving the quality of the results it does yield, removing a lot of wasted information if not always giving the very most recent data.

But Search Options wasn't the only new tool Google unveiled. Meyers also showed off new, richer results snippets and previewed Google Squared, a new Google Labs tool that "automatically fetches and organizes facts from across the Internet." CNET's Tom Krazit explains Google Squared this way:

This project allows searchers to create a spreadsheet based on Web results. Users can filter the data accessed through the Google Squared search, request additional categories to create a custom spreadsheet with the results that matter the most to them, and even fact-check the results by accessing the source of the data as well as alternate sources.

Sounds a lot like the knowledge-based search Wolfram Alpha is promising, when it debuts its new search engine next week. According to PC World's Ian Paul:

Wolfram Alpha doesn't index Web pages like a traditional search engine. Instead, the site processes your natural-language query against its database of facts that have been gathered, fact-checked, and organized by Wolfram Alpha staff...and Wolfram Alpha doesn't just spit out one result but compiles a "mini dossier on the subject compiled in real time...It's like having a squad of Cambridge mathematicians and CIA analysts inside your browser."

Spreadsheet, dossier, whatever. The result seems pretty close. The more newcomers try and topple Google, the faster Google seems to spit out new features and functions. It's as if the mere existence of competition just makes Google more doggedly pursue excellence. And while that's not good news for someone like Wolfram Alpha, it works out just fine for the average user looking for a better search experience.

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