Published December 07, 2009
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — The feature unveiled Monday represents Google Inc.'s most significant step yet in the field of "real-time" search — a catch phrase for the torrent of information constantly being shared on blogs and the personal pages of social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
As those destinations have turned into increasingly popular forums for swapping opinions, offering news tips and highlighting interesting stories, Google, Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. all have been scrambling to retool their search engines so they reel in and showcase real-time data more quickly.
Google reached a deal in October to blend Twitter updates, or "tweets," into its results, but hadn't indicated how its system would work until Monday.
Microsoft's search engine, Bing, has included a section for tweets since late October. Yahoo began relying on tweets to point out hot news stories in its results last month.
In Google's version of real-time search, a section of its main results page will include a capsule that automatically scrolls relevant information within a few seconds after it pops up in the Web index.
Normally, a new search request was the only way to see the blog posts, status updates and other information that Google had collected since the previous query.
With the change, a person requesting information about President Obama, for instance, will see the usual set of static links, photos and video, as well as the capsule with pertinent tweets, blog posts and news stories.
The real-time data won't show up right away for everyone because it will take Google's computer centers a few days to make it work everywhere.
Google's real-time information eventually will be expanded to include some of the chatter on Facebook and MySpace, the world's two largest social networks.
Although Google announced its partnerships with the sites Monday, the feeds from Facebook and MySpace won't start appearing in the real-time results until early next year, said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president for search products and user experience.
As with Google's Twitter alliance, Mayer declined to say how much the company is paying Facebook and MySpace for better access to the information on their sites. The privacy controls on Facebook and MySpace will enable their users to prevent Google from indexing their updates.
Microsoft and Yahoo already have access to some Facebook updates.
Google is trying to provide better real-time results to maintain its huge lead in search as Microsoft and Yahoo prepare to team up in a partnership that still needs regulatory approval. Google processes about two-thirds of the search requests worldwide while Yahoo and Microsoft handle a combined 10 percent.
"People expect search engines to make all kinds of information available to them," said Amit Singhal, a Google engineer who oversaw the development of the real-time tool.
Google relies on its dominance of search to drive more than $21 billion in advertising sales.
Besides introducing real-time search, Google also showed off several other new tools in an auditorium down the block from its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.
The company added a voice recognition to process mobile search requests in Japanese on phones running its operating system, Android (Google already does this in English and in Mandarin Chinese). It also provided a preview of a test product, called "Google Goggles," that will enable people to send a photograph of an object and get search results about it.