Thursday, November 20, 2008

Your own private Google

Earlier this evening, Google unleashed SearchWiki, a feature allowing you to edit and annotate Google search results. The kicker? They’ve added the feature to their flagship product: Google. It’s not in beta. It’s not a lab feature. It’s not part of Google Notebook, and it doesn’t require a Firefox plug-in. As long as you’re signed in under your Google ID, you’ll see it whenever you search for something on Google. This video does a great job explaining the feature, so I won’t bother repeating it.

This is pretty fascinating, and I’ve got a couple of thoughts. First, if you’re the type of person who thinks bookmarking is useless because Google gets you there faster and easier than any other option, well, this announcement bolsters your argument. For example, type in “sports.” ESPN comes up first, but you don’t like that. You’d rather see Fox come up first. Press the arrow to promote Fox to the top. Done.

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But what if you want to see Football Outsiders and King Kaufman’s Salon column on this list? Just add them using the “add search result” feature at the bottom of the page. You might rarely use Google for simple, generic keyword searches like “recipes” or “weather”, but with SearchWiki, those same keywords can now be used to map your most visited sites.

imageThe other obvious use is for searches you might regularly perform, but which are frequently updated with new results. A vanity search is a great example.

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Come on. It would have been boring if I used my own name.

I’ll be interested to see how often I use SearchWiki. I certainly use Google a lot, but I don’t frequently run the same searches or run into the same results. I’m skeptical as to whether Google’s latest innovation will prove all that useful. On the other hand, it’s difficult to predict how useful a new feature will be. I’ve never used anything like it. In a few weeks, SearchWiki might be solving problems I didn’t know I had.

Finally, I should say that I’m impressed with how polished the new feature is at launch. Google has managed to add some extraordinary new features without changing the basic layout or aesthetics of their flagship product. And the icons make the functions refreshingly clear.

Nice job, Google. 

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