Yesterday in their annual Press Day, the team at Google brought the world up to date on their latest and greatest, including the launch of one update and three brand new products. While the future of Google will still have search as a focus, Google CEO Eric Schmidt made it pretty clear that Google is looking beyond traditional search features to led them into the future.

"We're moving to the next state of the internet where it's all about people and expression," said Schmidt. The gradual shift into features and offerings that put more emphasis on personalizing the web was apparent in the overviews of the three new products Google announced: Google Co-op, Google Trends, and Google Notebook, which won't go live until next week. Google also announced version 4 of the popular Google Desktop program.

Google Co-op

The idea here was to run with the trendy idea of "tagging" (though Google calls it labeling) in order to allow for more personalized search results. Google will allow logged in users to "subscribe" to specific providers and will return results from those sites in the OneBox that already shows for some Google searches. (The OneBox is that little snippet of listings that appears above the "traditional" quick links to news stories, movie showtimes or business listings.)

While Google has plenty of information on their site about this feature, it seems to have most people somewhat baffled. Even programmers are finding it difficult to figure out how to use the API to get a site added to the list and many wonder if this won't open up yet another door for spam abuse. Danny Sullivan has some pretty in-depth coverage, but don't expect to walk away from the article with a true understand of just what Google's trying to accomplish here.

Google Trends

Thing of this one as the Google Zeitgeist on demand, with steroids. Basically, you enter a search term and Google spits back a chart that covers the volume of search for that phrase over the past two years or so. It will also tell you which cities and regions do the most searching for that term.

For example, run a search for online florist and you can note a definite spike in interest around what appears to be Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. The timeline charts also don't distinguish months or dates, leaving it up to a user's best guess to decide which dates fall where. The tool was designed to help folks research the long-term popularity of a phrase or search term, but the data lacks hard numbers, which makes it near impossible to use the tool for anything other than trend spotting.

Google Notebook

This one will be housed in Google Labs upon launch and is designed to allow readers to add their own meta data to search results, sort of the way that works. Not much information has been released on this one yet, but screen shots from a Google employee are available over at Flickr.

Google Desktop Beta 4

Can a product in its fourth release really still be considered a beta? Apparently if you work at Google it can... Either way, the latest version of Google's popular desktop search software introduces the idea of "Google Gadgets." Google Gadgets are "visually appealing mini-applications like clocks, weather globes, media players, etc... [that] will enable a wide array of visual effects and animation." (The example given on the Google Desktop Blog? A weather globe that actually looks...well, like a globe.)

A few other improvements worth noting? The ability to add some of the modules from a Google Homepage to the sidebar for one. Even better though, is the tool's ability to remember who you are no matter what computer you log in through. That could be a great time saver for those that use the tool both at home and at the office, or who find themselves setting up a new laptop or desktop system.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

May 12, 2006

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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