Search Giants Rev Up Innovation Engines

The war in the search engine market has evolved from a contest of speed and scale to one of innovation.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have all tied in with Twitter for real-time search.

Google and Bing are also focusing on visual search, although the two define that term differently. In addition, Bing has teamed up with Wolfram Alpha in the math and health areas.

2, 4, 6, 8, Let’s All Go and Innovate

Google fired the latest shot in the innovation wars with its announcement Thursday that users of the Google Search Appliance (GSA) can now call up tweets next to their internal search results. This is the latest in a string of GSA innovations.

The GSA is for enterprise use. It lets a company’s staff search across Web sites, intranets, portals, fileshares, content management systems and business applications. Customers include Reuters, Kimberly-Clark, the Sunnybrook Health Science Center and Tivo.

With the GSA, Google is battling Microsoft head-on in the enterprise search area, which is very lucrative. In that area, Microsoft has integrated its Fast Search technology with its SharePoint 2010 Server and introduced other new features in SharePoint 2010. Fast Search is built on Fast ESP, technology Microsoft acquired when it bought Norwegian enterprise search company Fast Search & Transfer.

Social information is important for businesses, Google said. That’s not new — many enterprise software vendors, including Salesforce.com and IBM, have already integrated Facebook into their apps, for example.

Enterprise search serves as a testing bed for Google. “Enterprise search labs are a place for us to take lots of new feature ideas and let early adopters use them and decide whether they’re good or not,” Google spokesperson Jake Hubert told TechNewsWorld. “So, Twitter on GSA is an opt-in for admins. Some great labs features may become core parts of the product and thus will move into a more guaranteed mode, and we may retire ones that don’t get much use.”

To Each Its Own

Microsoft takes a totally different approach to enterprise search. It may not add Twitter to its enterprise search offerings, according to Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group.

“So many companies block social networking sites that I think Microsoft just won’t go there,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The GSA announcement was the second search innovation Google publicized this week. On Tuesday, the Internet search giant announced that it had integrated various new features into its search engine to provide real-time results. These include live updates from social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook’s FriendFeed.

Google also demonstrated the Google Goggles visual search application. This pulls up and displays information from Google’s databases about objects photographed with Android phones using Android 1.6 or later.

Bing’s approach to visual search is quite different — it lets users sort photographs into various categories such as “entertainment,” “famous people” and “reference.” Each of these has subcategories. Those for “famous people” include “U.S. presidents,” “film legends” and “world leaders.”

Yahoo got into the visual search race obliquely — on Monday, it announced an expansion of its video search feature that will help consumers explore their favorite television shows and movies online. The first iteration deals only with music.

Looking Toward the Future

The push to innovate goes on. “We’re always looking to update Yahoo Search,” Yahoo spokesperson Sheila Tran told TechNewsWorld. “We recently launched a new search page, and you’ll see continued innovation focused on providing consumers with personally relevant search experiences.”

Google, meanwhile, is working on a next-generation architecture for Web search codenamed “Caffeine.” This will bring improvements in indexing speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

It is also plugging away in other areas.

“We continue innovating in search to expand the comprehensiveness of our index, the relevance of our results and our speed,” Hubert said. “Each week, we make visible interface changes to improve search quality, as well as roughly a dozen invisible changes to our ranking algorithms.”

Whether Yahoo Search will incorporate new search features from Bing remains to be seen.

“The deal with Microsoft has not been finalized yet,” Tran said. “The definitive agreement has been signed, but from our product perspective, we haven’t integrated with Microsoft at all — and that won’t happen until after the deal closes.”

1 Comment

  • This is an exciting development coming on the heel of some other major advances in the search space by Google and others this week. It is very hard to predict the future correctly especially when the future is the present before most people even know it. I believe that, some years from now, we will look back at 2009 as the year web search got transformed in a big way. For example, a few of us have been working hard on a new kind of search for several years. Our creation TipTop at http://FeelTipTop.com, a real-time, semantic, social search engine, is now available in a beta version. Just in time for the holiday season, we have begun to transform comparison shopping as well at http://ftt.nu/shopping

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

LinuxInsider Channels