Google pushes forward with Universal Search

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Google pushes forward with Universal Search

Transforming video from entertainment to research tool.

Google has unveiled a new Universal Search feature that integrates results from news stories, books, video, local search and images.

The feature will expose users to new informations without requiring them to visit specialized search engines within the Google site. Users for instance will be able to watch videos from Google and Youtube through a player that is embedded on the search result page. The site will link to videos on other websites, but won't play them on an embedded player.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin touted the Universal Search launch as the first big pay-off of last year's Youtube acquisition. The expansion transforms online video from an entertainment product to a research tool, Brin argued at a company event at its corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California.

People learning to ski, he illustrated, currently don't visit video sites. Universal Search however will expose them to such content.

"Now the incredible value from a research point of view […] will become apparent and really useful to users," said Brin.

Similar to including video results, the service will also offer information from Google's book search, local search, news stories and image search services.

A search for local restaurants for instance will offer a list of user reviews, address information and display a map. Searches for movies will link to the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB) and when available display the entire movie.

A team of "hundreds" of engineers has been working on the project for two years, the company said. Because the search engine added five additional sources to its search queries, it had to design algorithms that wouldn't increase the load on their servers by 500 per cent.

Google ended up designing a new search infrastructure and new ranking algorithms to determine the order in which results are ranked. The company cla imed that this allowed it to essentially eliminate the workload associated with introducing additional content.

Google also unveiled a new contextual search feature that lets users narrow down their query to a specific category, based on the query itself. A query for 'downtown Los Angeles' for instance offers a deep dive into images, news and maps as well as pain web results. A search for the 'python' scripting language offers blog items, book links, discussion groups, and code snippets.

"We ultimately see a real advance in the information that is being presented to the user," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience with Google.

Lastly, Google launched a new Google Experimental page where users can sign up for services and products that are in an early test phase. The search engine currently offers those services to random users that allows the site user reception of upcoming services.

The new services are currently being rolled out throughout Google's datacenters and should be available to all users by Thursday morning.
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