Posts Tagged ‘search’

Foursquare in talks with search engines over data partnership

July 19th, 2010
The company behind the social “check-in” application Foursquare says it’s now in talks with Google, Microsoft and Yahoo about a data partnership. Foursquare says check-in data could help search engines enhance results.

Foursquare is a location-based social network used on mobile devices. Members of the service launch an application or send a text message when they arrive at a venue or destination and click on a “check-in” button. The more a user checks-in to various locations, the more points he or she is awarded. The user also unlocks “badges” for special activities and can become the “mayor” of a venue if they check in there more often than others.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley says he has been speaking with “everyone” in the search space including big companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, about a possible data deal. “Our data generates hugely interesting trends which would enrich search,” Crowley said. “We can anonymize data and use it to show venues which are trending at that moment. Twitter helped the world and the search engines know what people are talking about. Foursquare would allow people to search for the types of place people are going to – and where is trending – not what.”

According to the Telegraph, big search engines deny they’re in talks with Foursquare, but also refused to provide statements to media inquiries.

Foursquare has not indicated when a deal may be inked with search partners, but Crowley said the company is excited about its ongoing discussions with “a lot of different potential partners” who could benefit from Foursquare data.

When asked to comment about the possibility of joining forces with competitor Gowalla, Crowley told the Telegraph, “We are more social than Gowalla and ultimately have different visions moving forward. They are excited about different things.”

Crowley created an earlier version of Foursquare called Dodgeball which was acquired by Google in 2005 and shut down in 2009. Crowley says he remains close with “the guys at Google” and he currently employs a few Google employees.

Foursqure boasts more than two million members and recently finished a $20 million investment round by Silicon Valley venture capital company, Andreessen Horowitz. Foursquare is now valued at $95 million.

Foursquare’s potential data deals are similar to Twitter’s first commercial agreements in which the company decided to sell data to help search engines keep track of the real-time Web.

As critics point out, it would be a big deal for Foursquare if it landed agreements with big search engines, but it may still be too early to pull out the bubbly to celebrate. “It’s an attractive idea in theory, though it’s difficult to see this data being widely useful just yet; Foursquare’s two million users are impressive, but not enough to shed much light on what places people in general are going to,” writes Nick Saint of Business Insider. If search companies throw much money Foursquare’s way, it will be a bet on the startup’s future.

Google search gets a shot of caffeine with new indexing system

June 9th, 2010
Search engine giant Google announced it has updated the way it crawls and indexes the Web. The company says its new method called “Caffeine” provides better results for those searching the Web.

In August 2009, Google gave a teaser about what the world should expect with the launch of Caffeine. Yesterday the company confirmed the roll-out was complete and Google search is now updated.

In a post on the company’s official blog, Google software engineer Carrie Grimes said Caffeine provides 50 percent “fresher” results for Web searches when compared to the last method of indexing.

For those unfamiliar with “indexing” the process takes place when search engines crawl the Web to find new pages, as well as updates on existing web pages. For a company such as Google, it needs to ensure it has the latest and best results at all times in order to stay competitive with rivals such as Microsoft’s Bing or Yahoo.

As Google explains: “When you search Google, you’re not searching the live web. Instead you’re searching Google’s index of the web which, like the list in the back of a book, helps you pinpoint exactly the information you need.” Here is more info on how Google search works.

According to recent numbers published by ArsTechnica, Google currently makes up about 70 percent of the search market in the U.S., while Yahoo takes about 25 percent and Bing 9 percent. From a global perspective, Google owns about 85 percent market share, whereas Yahoo attracts just over 6 percent and Bing under 5 percent.

Google says Caffeine provides users with the largest collection of web content the company has ever offered.

“Whether it’s a news story, a blog or a forum post, you can now find links to relevant content much sooner after it is published than was possible ever before,” Grimes said in the company’s blog post.

Google said its new search indexing system was built because the Web is growing in size and new types of content including video, images, news and real-time updates are playing an increasingly important role in the Web’s information space. Today’s Web, Google says, is richer and more complex than ever before.

“In addition, people’s expectations for search are higher than they used to be,” said Grimes. “Searchers want to find the latest relevant content and publishers expect to be found the instant they publish.” Google’s previous index relied on several layers of indexing where some were updated more frequently than others.

As Google indicates:

The main layer would update every couple of weeks. To refresh a layer of the old index, we would analyze the entire web, which meant there was a significant delay between when we found a page and made it available to you.

With Caffeine, we analyze the web in small portions and update our search index on a continuous basis, globally. As we find new pages, or new information on existing pages, we can add these straight to the index. That means you can find fresher information than ever before—no matter when or where it was published.

Google says Caffeine allows the company to index pages on a massive scale (every second, Caffeine processes hundreds of thousands of pages at once). To put it into real-world terms, Google says if Caffeine were a stack of paper, it would grow three miles taller every second.

And from a storage standpoint, Google says Caffeine takes up almost 100 million gigabytes of storage in one database, adding hundreds of thousands of gigs more every day. That is the equivalent of 625,000 of the largest iPods worth of information.

“We’ve built Caffeine with the future in mind,” Grimes said. “Not only is it fresher, it’s a robust foundation that makes it possible for us to build an even faster and comprehensive search engine that scales with the growth of information online, and delivers even more relevant search results to you.”

Google personalizing 20% of your search results

March 4th, 2010

If you and a friend are searching online using the same keywords, would you assume the results you’re given will be the same? If you’re using Google, that isn’t the case.

According to The Register, Google is now personalizing about 20 percent of your Web search results.

Google’s Bryan Horling who works with the company’s personalized search team, spoke at the SMX West conference in Santa Clara, California recently. According to Horling, as many as one in five of your searches are tailored to your location, Web history and online contacts in an effort to deliver you search results that are more relevant to you.

Horling said anyone who is using Google today is going to be affected by personalization, and it goes beyond the typical country-based tweaks where a search for “government” in Canada will yield different results than the same search in Australia, for example.

Using personalized search, Google is tweaking results on an individual’s behaviour. However, Horling said the changes are subtle. “When these techniques fire, the changes tend to relatively minor,” he said. “We’re moving a few results. We might be moving a few down. We’re generally not changing the entire character of the page.”

Google is not only tailoring searches for its members who have a Google account, but also for anonymous users who hit the search site. When an anonymous person (someone not logged into the Google network) searches, Google will personalize search results based on that user’s Web history and cookies set on a user’s browser.

The recent launch of Google Buzz is also playing a role in personalized search, as Google uses your chat contacts and people you’re “following” on Buzz in order to tailor search results. “The idea behind social search is that we surface content from your social circle,” Horling said. Social search will do things like show you a document your friend wrote in search results if it’s related to something you’re searching for, and that document will receive more prominence on the page.

So why doesn’t Google make major changes based on your individual tastes? According to The Register, the company doesn’t make massive changes because keywords entered by the user make it pretty clear what they’re searching for, and computer algorithms are not always 100 percent accurate when they try to fill in context around a particular search.

Not everyone thinks personalized search is a good thing. Mike Melanson with ReadWriteWeb, says, “While this might be good for some things, we’re thinking it could also be like formulating an answer before someone even finishes asking the question.”

Melanson suggests Google offer the ability to opt-out of personalized search so a user who wants to see the Web unfiltered will have the ability to do so without logging out of their Google account, clearing their browser history and cache.

In related search and personalization news, Google made a search-related announcement yesterday, introducing a new feature intended to make it easier for you to mark and rediscover your favorite web content — stars.

Using Google’s star feature (similar to bookmarking or marking a webpage as a favourite), you can mark pages you like so they reappear in future searches. So if you have a favourite hockey team, retail store or website, you can star it and future searches related to that site will slingshot your starred sites to the top of the list.

“The great thing about stars is that you don’t have to keep track of them,” writes Cedric Dupont, Product Manager and Matthew Watson, Software Engineer,  on Google’s official blog. “You don’t even have to remember whether or not you starred something. Simply perform a search and you’ll rediscover your starred items right when you need them. Stars sync with your Google Bookmarks and the Google Toolbar, so you can always see your list of starred items in one place and easily organize them. Even beyond the results page, while browsing the web you can quickly click the star icon in Toolbar to create a bookmark, and those pages will start showing up in the new stars feature.”