Google dropped a bomb on would-be search challengers such as Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook on Aug. 10, unveiling a developer sandbox for a faster, more accurate search engine and inviting the public to test the product and provide feedback about the results.
The sandbox site is here, and Google programmers have come up with an interesting way to provide feedback about the new search architecture.
Google invites power users and Webmasters to do a search using the sandbox site and look on the results page for a link at the bottom of the page that says "Dissatisfied? Help us improve." Click on the link, enter feedback in the text box and then include the word "caffeine" somewhere in the text box.
Google Principal Engineer Matt Cutts and Staff Software Engineer Sitaram Iyer wrote in a blog post on the Google Webmaster Central blog:
"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. It's the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions. The new infrastructure sits "under the hood" of Google's search engine, which means that most users won't notice a difference in search results. But Web developers and power searchers might notice a few differences, so we're opening up a web developer preview to collect feedback."
At the moment, Cutts and Iyer said, they "only want feedback on the differences between Google's current search results and our new system. We're also interested in higher-level feedback ('These types of sites seem to rank better or worse in the new system') in addition to 'This specific site should or shouldn't rank for this query.'"
Engineers will read the feedback but won't reply, so comments will go into a black box for now.
Preannouncing a new search architecture in the dead of summer when most people are on vacation is a peculiar practice, but perhaps Google felt pressure to answer moves by its competitors. For example, Microsoft and Yahoo on July 29 announced a 10-year search ad deal.
Earlier Aug. 10, Facebook unleashed a double whammy: The social network bought social service aggregator FriendFeed and launched its own improved search service. More on Techmeme about FriendFeed and new Facebook search here and here.
By announcing that it has a new search service under construction, Google is reminding everyone that it intends to not only fight to keep its 65 percent search share, but to extend it.
And so, Cutts and Iyer reminded the public what it takes "to build a great search engine":
"1. Crawl a large chunk of the web.2. Index the resulting pages and compute how reputable those pages are.3. Rank and return the most relevant pages for users' queries as quickly as possible."
Take that, Yahoo and Microsoft.