There's no rest for the large and in charge. While some of us were whisking off to our Independence Day weekend getaways, Google boosted its blog, book and mobile search offerings to start off July with a bang.
First, the new Google Blog Search has gotten a touch of the Twitter treatment with the Hot Queries and Latest Posts features. Google says these tools are intended to let users "better help you discover what people are talking about right now on the Web."
This is essentially what Twitter (and now Microsoft Bing and FriendFeed) does for folks, though instead of granting users access to Tweets in real time, Hot Queries lists searches popular in Blog Search right now. This morning, the top hot queries were, surprise, "4th of July" and Jonas Salk.
Latest posts show new posts from major blogs, a fine tool for journalists looking to keep up on news their rivals are posting, but otherwise, eh. I subscribed to this in Google Reader, but I'm not sure how much I'll use it.
Blog Search also now boasts RSS and Atom feeds. Users can now click on the links under "Subscribe" in the left-hand column of the Blog Search front page to subscribe to any topic or story in any feed reader, like Google Reader.
Users who don't use Google Reader, BlogLines or any feed reader can grab a new iGoogle gadget, which lets them embed a Blog Search front page in iGoogle to peruse blogs from within the widget.
Have you ever wanted to find certain paragraphs or passages in your favorite book? Google Book Search has gotten a nifty little book search tool users can leverage right from their scrollbar.
Crack open your favorite book digitally by doing a search using, say, a character in the book. I did a search on the main character Ignatius from John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces." After I clicked on a page, little blue-gray hints appeared in the right margin to indicate where his name would pop up in the book and in what context.
I hovered over these hints to get a preview of the search results, along with the option of jumping to a particular page.
In the past it was tough to find results within a book. Too many pages, the proverbial needle in the haystack. This new tool lets us find more needles. Google should have just rolled this out last month with the ability to view the context of a search result, or sort results by relevancy or page order.
Lastly, Google Mobile Search is going universal for mobile devices that aren't full-featured smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone and Android-powered phones. Now Google Mobile Search is available on all device models in over 60 countries and 38 languages.
What will users in most countries see from their handhelds? The same universal search results the U.S. has seen on mobile phones for months, including news, images, blog, video and product search results in the result page. Also, users in most countries get local listings with phone number links. Check out these sample screenshots.
Why is this a big deal? Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land wrote:
"These changes seek to minimize the gap between the user experience on smartphones vs. lower-end devices and make it more consistent. While it can never be truly equivalent, because of the speed, screen size and processing power of smartphones, the chasm can be diminished somewhat."
And that means more users using Google Web services, meaning more ad traffic for Google. That's one way Google can stomp Yahoo and Microsoft in mobile.