12 Comments

Summary:

While the launch of Microsoft’s Bing and its deal to acquire Yahoo’s search business temporarily put the focus on “market share” and “user experience,” in search, what really matters are great search algorithms and the infrastructure to support them. And to remind us all of that, Google yesterday […]

google_logo1While the launch of Microsoft’s Bing and its deal to acquire Yahoo’s search business temporarily put the focus on “market share” and “user experience,” in search, what really matters are great search algorithms and the infrastructure to support them. And to remind us all of that, Google yesterday evening rolled out a preview version of its new search technology, Caffeine.

“For the last several months, a large team of Googlers has been working on a secret project: a next-generation architecture for Google’s web search,” the company wrote on its blog. “It’s the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions.”

I don’t have much to say about this new effort: Matt Cutts, a Google evangelist, does a pretty good job explaining it. What I do want to point out is that sometimes it’s easy to focus — and I, too, am guilty of this — only on Google’s front end, and to forget that it really is a technology company that hides most of its achievements under a plain-Jane interface.

A casual observer might not find any huge “visual” difference in this new preview version of Google Search. And Google doesn’t want us to. After all, the single biggest asset for Google is the simplicity and familiarity of its interface.

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  1. whoa – its fast….

  2. As usual, you put your finger right on it. We’re definitely not shooting for any UI changes or anything really visible with Caffeine. It’s all under the hood in the internals of the engine.

  3. not only is it fast, but i can actually tell that it’s more precise and finds better results. it’s not like google had much to improve on (at least from a regular user’s point of view), but i’m excited about this for sure. happy searching :-)

  4. Less is more. Simple will sell. There is already to much clutter in life;
    we don’t need more. Thanks Google for keeping it real simple.

  5. I’ve always loved Google’s “plain-Jane” UI … so simple and easy … when all sorts of search “competitors” try to add fancy bells (e.g. – “You can hover-over a link and PREVIEW what the page looks like”), it’s Google that continues to focus on revelancy, speed and simplicity.

    Thanks Googlers!

  6. While I agree that the Google search (apparent) simplicity is a selling point, I actually moved to live.com and now bing.com for image searches. The scrollable ‘infinite list’ of results makes for much faster surveying of the results. This may be a case where Google has kept things a bit too simple. -Joe

  7. Randhir Reddy Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Brilliant, the subtle UI changes are awesome. Its amazing how Google makes superlatively simple site even more simple, just when one would think search UI is done.

  8. Hopefully it puts the SEO clowns out of business. They’re one small step better than spammers.

  9. To set a cat amongst the pigeons…does technology matter for the average Google search?

    Firstly most people don’t click on the 2nd and subsequent search result pages of Google. If you don’t believe this, do a quick survey with your friends and family – how many people go to the second or subsequent pages of a Google search result. In most cases, the several thousands of pages that are indexed by Google only to be listed in the second or subsequent pages of the search result is the equivalent of the “haystack”. The needle is in the first page that google throws up. There’s a lot of technology that goes into creating the “haystack”. But what matters is the “needle”.

    Secondly, let’s talk about that needle. The first page that Google throws up is a combination of technology and manual fine-tuning. Oftentimes one can wonder if the first page is indeed largely predictable – for example, there is almost always a link to a wikipedia page, whatever it is that you are trying to search. If you are searching places, then there is wikitravel and lonelyplanet thrown in. If you are searching for people, then facebook and linkedin are the usual suspects. One can go on similarly for different types of search terms…. The question that this leads to is – how much is the unique consumer value of the first page of a search result? As a consumer, I would define “Unique consumer value” as the set of links that are highly relevant to my search, but are not obvious (for example, not wikipedia, because I can directly search the wikipedia from my browser, without having to visit Google in the first place).

    Yes, Google throws up huge search results in an incredible amount of time. For example, I searched “vietnam” and got 166000000 results in 0.26 seconds, but the first page contained a number of “predictable” entries (wikipedia, wikitravel, lonelyplanet). Since most people don’t go to any of the 164999990 entries that lie beyond the first page, and since many of the entries on the first page donot need “rocket science” to show up there, the question that begs to be asked is: how important is technology for the average google search?

  10. Microsoft had to trigger Google’s quest for better service for its users!

    So is Caffeine a proof that Google is scared of MS, that they decided that something has to be done quickly so as to retain the market shares? Is Google shaken?

    1. Sherin

      This project is about six to eight months old. So no this isn’t a sign that Google is worried of Microsoft. It is a sign that they know when it is time for them to reinvent themselves and not get too caught up in their past.

      1. Om,

        You could be right in your observation about Caffeine. Nevertheless, Bing has made a non-zero impact on Google. How else can one explain the sudden appearance of images and maps in Google search results since the last few weeks?

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