SAN FRANCISCO – Google Inc. (GOOG) is introducing a new search service that only a geek could love.
The Web search leader said late on Wednesday it is introducing Google Code Search, a site that simplifies how software developers search for programming code to improve existing software or create new programs.
Google product manager Tom Stocky said the Mountain View, California-based company is set to help programmers sift through billions of lines of computer source code using its familiar search box to uncover snippets of reusable software.
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"For a long time it has been sort of an unsolved problem," said Stocky, a product manager in the developer products group. "It is hard to find references to this sort of data."
Google is applying the same machine-driven techniques it uses to help consumers search the Web for text, images, video and books to help professional programmers as well as computer enthusiasts overcome stumbling blocks to writing code.
Searchers can seek out specific programming terms or computer languages and dive deep into compressed code to locate specific features.
Users also can narrow a search to find software code based on specific licensing requirements, which is a big deal in warding off future patent litigation.
Similar to how a consumer might type a few words into a standard Google search box for answers, programmers can seek out relevant lines of code at http://google.com/codesearch — except the results are for machine-readable phrases such as "go 2}gle" "hello, world" or "^int printk."
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It's commonplace, when looking to improve a particular line of software, for most code writers to search the Web for quick tips. But finding actual programming code, rather than just discussions about a particular coding problem, is tough.
To meet this need, sites such as Koder, O'Reilly Labs or ProgrammingIsHard.com have sprung up that offer repositories of code. Most are small, require membership and are often devoted to only a specific class of software or problem.
Some programmers say Google Code Search answers some of the nightmares of building software, by creating a central place to trawl for publicly available code.
"(Google Code Search) may come in handy when looking for different ways of approaching a particular programming problem," said Niall Kennedy, a San Francisco technical blog commentator.
Others were less impressed: "Functional and simple, but therein lies the problem," said the writer of a site called "Digital Alchemy," who sees few advantages over existing sites.
Google searches through code repositories that are popular among programmers — CollabNet's Subversion and another alternative called CVS, Stocky said.
The service began as a way for Google programmers to search through internal company code. It added a search of publicly available code and recently Google decided it might as well open up the service to others.
Google Code Search is in test mode on Google's Labs site.
Initially, Google Code Search is free of advertising.
Should the site prove popular, Stocky said Google may consider running pay-per-click advertising along search results, the way it makes money from its more mainstream search services, he said.