Updated: Google Universal Search: Expect Display, Video Ads

More on this as I get better connectivity and figure out my flight options. I'm stuck in La Guardia in thunderstorm hell. Here's SEL: Google is undertaking the most radical change to its search results ever, introducing a "Universal Search" system that will blend listings from its news, video,…

More on this as I get better connectivity and figure out my flight options. I’m stuck in La Guardia in thunderstorm hell. Here’s SEL:

Google is undertaking the most radical change to its search results ever, introducing a “Universal Search” system that will blend listings from its news, video, images, local and book search engines among those it gathers from crawling web pages.

The new system officially rolls out today for anyone using Google.com and searching in English. Not everyone will see it at first, but over the course of the next several days, Universal Search should be more, well, universal.

I plan to write about this at length if I ever get on a plane…

Update: Several of you have noted in comments that Google’s new approach to search is old news – Ask and A9 and others have had these kind of services for quite a while. True, for the most part (they have not combined them as aggressively as Google promises to). First, it’s notable that Udi Manber is making his first tuely public appearance as the face of Google search this week, and it’s not a coincidence that many of the search innovations he pioneered at Yahoo and A9 are now showing up at Google. Second, regardless of whether or not Google is simply playing catch up, the fact that it has decided to do this is quite significant. And it will no doubt send the folks at Ask and other places into paroxsyms, Google will, because it’s the market leader, get credit for what others have already done. Jim Lanzone, you now know what it feels like to be Steve Jobs when Windows came out…..

Lastly, and very importantly: this “gradual change” to a multi-media search result is a very tangible step toward the execution of intent-driven web navigation – and advertising. Expect display and video ads on the home page of Google very soon.

PS – I am focusing on family matters for much of the rest of the week. Back at it as I can be….

14 thoughts on “Updated: Google Universal Search: Expect Display, Video Ads”

  1. Google Universal Search looks impressive and it brings them in line with recent upgrades made to AOL and A9. But perhaps the more interesting step forward will be their 12-language Cross Language Information Retrieval. I already see many referrals from Google translation services. I am guessing I’ll see many more in the future as the the CLIR initiative comes online.

  2. John, when you write about this, I would like to point out one thing that stands out to me, one thing you may want to keep in mind. In this “Universal Search”, at least as Google presented it today, it is not just a matter of Google automatically displaying the results from the set of most relevant data genres/verticals. Google also introduced the notion of a context-aware navigational toolbar, by which users can offer explicit refinements of the search.

    Thus if Google automatically determines that the best 3-4 verticals for your search are blogs, news, and images, you can disagree, and select “video” instead. Or you can narrow your search results, and select “images”, thereby choosing only that particular cluster of results.

    To me, what is significant about this announcement is not the idea of Universal Search, per se. It is the idea of allowing users manual, explicit refinement of the automatically-generated system results. This latter notion is a very new direction for Google, and one that they heretofore seem to have studiously avoided. “Users are too lazy to do refinements”, is the mantra I have often heard.

    This has now changed, officially, and I think it is a big deal. I will now also officially eat my own words, as I have been griping on this blog for a few years now about Google’s failure to do things like this.

    Nice job, Google. Let’s keep it coming.

  3. Let me know when they add my history and google browser sync information as well. Then they can call it “universal”. And target my ads accordingly. No more mortgage refi ads!

  4. I do not know what it becomes later, for now as I could see it on google.com, it is somewhat a copycat feature of AskX, A9, and even Live search. The last two engines already allow users to add/remove buttons for other verticles. The first engine senses the approriate verticals as Google does.

    There is nothing wrong in copying and improving. But when an independent observer like you mention, proper credit should be attributed too. This so called radical change is competition in action. It can force even more radical changes than this one. Even the search refinements, I first saw on Ask.

    Disclaimer: The commentator works for Microsoft, the parent company of Live search. The opinion is his personal opinion.

  5. I´m not sure if I like the new universal search. The search entry result pages have already been fed up with many useless results, now it´s probably getting more confusing. I´ve also read that Google plans to use video and graphical advertisements on the SERPs – that would be harmful to me, no thanks.

  6. John, you said “Google will, because it’s the market leader, get credit for what others have already done.”

    Does not seem to be the case in some other industries. In fact it is quite the opposite.

    Even in this case, there is only a small fraction of people giving credit to Google. I read a BBC article and even they mentioned that others have already done it. Though, it is significant that Google decided to follow.

  7. Google will, because it’s the market leader, get credit for what others have already done. Jim Lanzone, you now know what it feels like to be Steve Jobs when Windows came out…..

    You mean how PARC felt, not how Steve Jobs felt, right John? 😉

    But sadly, I think what you say here is probably true, about Google getting credit the same way MS Windows did. But there is one crucial difference: Before Windows came out, I don’t think Microsoft strenuously argued against Apple, saying that windowing operating systems took too much time to load and users did not want to wait that long, that “users were too lazy” to arrange their desktop icons, that the command-line style of a DOS interface was much cleaner and well-designed than all the messy overlapping graphical boxes. I remember Unix geeks making those arguments, but I don’t think Microsoft did.

    Microsoft might have been playing catchup, and not innovating internally. But at least it had the self-consistency of not being philosophically opposed to what Apple (and PARC) were doing.

    [snip – I am cutting this post into two parts, because your blog is rejecting it]

  8. [Part Two]

    Google, on the other hand, is not only playing catchup, but is changing its philosophy to do so. For many years Google’s minimalist interface was purposely, almost religiously, DOSy/Unixy in its lack of GUI. Yet there are now loads of colorful, bubbly widgets on the Google personalized homepage. Google used to say that, in order to achieve its goal of organizing the world’s information, it would not do chat and calendars. Now, it claims that chat and calendars are essential parts of organizing the world’s information. And whereas for many years Google has argued vehemently that users are too lazy to use query refinement tools, Google is now offering things like timeline clustering of results, to help users quickly navigate through hundreds and hundreds of documents at once.

    I for one welcome our new philosophically-challenged overlords, and am glad that they finally see what Vivisimo and Ask and others have seen for years. I welcome it because I think more competition is better. I pretty much stoppped using Google on any sort of regular basis about a year ago because they were not offering the things I wanted. Now that they offer things like timeline clustering, I might actually start trying their search again. I have to say: It is about time that Google has come around. I thank all the other search engines for showing that users are not lazy, that we actually yearn for many of these improvements. I hope to see more from Ask et al as well as from Google. Remember, even with Windows, MacOS is far from dead.

    And let’s not forget that, just like Steve Jobs was also not the first person to come up with windowed operating systems, search engines over the past ten years were not the first to come up with query refinements based on clustering. In fact, the cluster hypothesis itself, the notion that relevant documents tend to cluster, goes back to Van Rijsbergen in 1979. Sometimes innovation is only innovation if you have a short memory.

    Just my $0.02.

  9. Dieses ist eine sehr schlechte Idee. Es gibt genügend ADS, wie ist. Ich mag Google, weil es ein NORMALES und EINFACHES Search Engine ist.
    This is a very bad idea. There’s enough ads as is. I like Google because it’s a PLAIN and SIMPLE search engine.
    If I choose them in the future, these ads will be forced upon me. For me at least, these ads will ruin Google and I’ll go elsewhere for my search needs….

  10. Wenn ich sie zukünftig wähle, ist dieses ADS nach mir Zwangs. Für mich mindestens, ruiniert dieses ADS Google und ich gehe anderwohin für meine Suche benötige..

  11. GUS has been given short shrift or even swept under the carpet — why?

    Because Google is abandoning it’s original simple, no frills site design?

    Because Google is “mixing up” the results so that no one realizes they’re a pile of sh..?

    Let’s face it (“Listen to him go!…”): Link-based search simply no longer cuts it (“we gotta get somethin’ real happenin’ here…. We should get into something REAL…. No, man, he’s not interested in Leather… that’s goin’ on two tours old now… We’ve gotta come up with some new –“)

    Stuff — that’s it! New stuff!! Visit http://www.new-stuff.com today!

    ;D nmw

    (ps: for non-FZ-afficionado’s, that was a little homage to FZ’s “We Gotta Get Into Something Real” 🙂

  12. Now we can see what Google Universal Search brought. Some of my friends are not happy with the fact that it is very difficult for them to find good quality results trying to filter the blogs and images and news… What it will happen in few weeks? Are Google users ready to switch to other search engines or not? We will see….

    For more comments take a look over: http://seo-ithut.blogspot.com/

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