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Google Offers Testers a Sip of Caffeine

Google Offers Testers a Sip of Caffeine

Though it's already branched into numerous fields like email, photo sharing and online office apps, Google is now trying to pump additional strength into its core product -- its search engine. Its new search tech is code-named "Caffeine," and it's asking any and all testers to compare the results they get from the standard engine with those from the caffeinated one.

As if its widely acknowledged dominance of the U.S. search engine market is not enough, Google on Tuesday revealed that it's working on a next-generation architecture for Web search.

The formerly secret project, code-named "Caffeine," is the first step in a process to improve the search engine in various areas, including indexing speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness, Google said.

Google has posted a request on its Webmaster Central blog asking visitors to test the Web dev preview and provide feedback.

Espresso, or Just Another Cuppa Joe?

Announcing Caffeine on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, Google engineers Sitaram Iyer and Matt Cutt said a large team has been working on the project for the past few months.

"Some parts of this system aren't completely finished yet, so we'd welcome feedback on any issues you see," they wrote. They invited readers to visit the Web dev preview, try searches and provide feedback.

Google wants feedback comparing its current search results against the new architecture, as well as higher-level feedback such as information on which types of sites rank better or worse than in the old system. While its engineers will read the feedback, they will not be able to reply, Iyer and Cutt said.

To provide feedback after conducting a search using the Web dev preview, visitors click on the link at the bottom of the page that says "Dissatisfied? Help us improve," type in their comments, and include the word "caffeine" somewhere in the text.

First Tasters Comment

Many of the 67 comments posted when TechNewsWorld visited the blog were favorable. "Cool, already noticed twice the amount of results for one of my website ... yeeh!" a commenter going by the name "bjorn" wrote.

"My search with the same expression between the new engine and the today engine gives 7,170 vs. 803 results," sebastien wrote. "Results are not the same in three first pages but more relevant. Great job!"

Other comments were more searching. "Is there an AJAX API for Caffeine search results?" Dan Fabulich wrote. "That would make it easier to detect interesting differences."

"Top domain pages show on top and are clustered," emac wrote. "Really good job."

Search Is a Bitter Brew

Google's announcement comes as no surprise to Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group.

"Remember, when Bing was announced, Google said it had been working on upgrades to its search engine," he told TechNewsWorld.

Google has maintained its lead in the search engine market by focusing on continuous improvement, Howe said.

Google is way ahead of the pack, according to comScore's expanded search engine rankings, covering the top properties where search activity is observed. Of the nearly 29 billion searches conducted in June, 13.1 billion were conducted on Google Sites, the rankings found. Yahoo sites came in a very poor second with 2.9 billion. Microsoft sites were an even more feeble third with 1.2 billion searches.

More than 1 billion searches were conducted on Bing sites in June, while Facebook drew 200 million searches -- just above the 198 million searches chalked up at last-ranking Amazon sites.

However, the competition is gaining strength. Facebook searches in June were up 9 percent over May's figures; Microsoft site searches were up 3 percent; and Google site searches were up 1 percent. Searches on Yahoo sites fell 4 percent from May.

Why is Google hustling, considering it's so far ahead of everyone else?

"Google's management recognizes that in an increasingly competitive and often fickle market, no company can afford to rest on its laurels and take its market share and lead for granted," Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC, told TechNewsWorld.

Google did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Drinking From the Search Cup

Search engine rankings power online advertising, so the siren song of search continues to spur development and alliances.

"Search is the new card catalog," Yankee Group's Howe said. "The No. 1 reason consumers leave Web sites is that they can't find what they're looking for. Having good search is just table stakes in the game."

Microsoft certainly takes search seriously. In July, it teamed up with Yahoo, following the May launch of its Bing search engine. Redmond has long lusted after Yahoo's search capabilities to give its search properties more oomph and to bolster its online ad revenues.

Although Facebook is a relatively minor player, it announced a new version of its search engine and began rolling it out on Monday. This will let users search the last 30 days of their news feed for status updates, photos, links, videos and notes being shared by their friends. They will also be able to search Facebook pages of which they're fans.

Despite its high profile, Twitter is still a minuscule player in the search engine sweepstakes, though late last month it unveiled a redesigned front page with an improved search engine.

However, their efforts won't provide any considerable competition to Google, ITIC's DiDio said.

"Google has built up a substantial lead over competitors," she noted, "and it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for Bing, Twitter Search and Facebook Search to erode that lead in the immediate near term or intermediate term."


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