Google Tuesday unveiled a slew of search tools for its Google search platform, including Google Search Options, Google Squared and Rich Snippets, not to mention a quirky planetarium-type application for Google Android phones called SkyMap.
Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products, told news outlets at Google's Searchology event in Mountain View, Calif., that Google was looking to make its search tools better, more specific and more sophisticated than ever before—certainly a Google prerogative as the search giant looks to maintain its heavyweight status and put even more distance between itself and the competition.
Search, said Mayer to The Wall Street Journal, is a "90-10 problem," meaning that 10 percent of what would represent the most sophisticated and most exact search function for a consumer has yet to be realized.
But Google's new tools also might say a lot about what it perceives its market-share competition to be. At the very least, suggested Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Web site Search Engine Land, to BusinessWeek, it allows Google to say "we have that" to any potential challengers.
Google Search Options, for example, allows users to "slice and dice" data according to different metrics, including how recently certain page results were updated. The flavor there? Realtime. And realtime, as everybody knows, is something associated with platforms like Twitter and other social networking services.
Last month, when the hot Google-to-buy-Twitter rumor mill was churning at full speed, one of the key selling points, observers noted at the time, was that having a Twitter-like platform in its stable would push Google toward a realtime search engine capability.
Another of the new features is Google Squared which, following a search, creates a spreadsheet of information on a particular topic, allowing the user a visual and line-by-line comparison of various results. Drawing together a broad collection of comparable data points, not just listing search results, is a key characteristic of WolframAlpha, the new search tool created by Mathematica idea man Stephen Wolfram.
So far, Google seems to fear competition from WolframAlpha about as much as it did Cuil, the sputtering search engine launched last summer by ex-Google employees.
But Google's interest in a similar approach to WolframAlpha also sends a clear message to potential Google challengers that they'd better get even more creative as Mountain View looks to stay one (or 10) steps ahead.
Google is in no danger. Late Tuesday, the research firm Hitwise submitted search engine traffic data for April that suggests Google's lead in the market continues to widen. According to Hitwise, nearly 73 percent of all online searches in the U.S. in April were through Google. Yahoo clocked in for April at 16.27 percent, Microsoft's MSN Search claimed 5.68 percent and Ask.com claimed 3.95 percent.
Hitwise also noted in its report that longer search queries are becoming more popular, with the average search now employing three words or more—a key piece of information to consider as Google and its rivals continue to tweak their search engines.