Google Demos Search Options, Google Squared at Searchology

Google at its Searchology event announces several new products, including Google Search Options, Google Squared and a new Google Android application called Sky Map. Google has been expanding its search applications and associated tools in a bid to maintain its strong market-share lead over archrivals Yahoo and Microsoft.

Google used its annual Searchology event May 12 to announce a handful of new search products, many under the umbrella of the new Google Search Options, which the company says allow users to hunt for information online in a more granular manner.

Google Search Options will be accessible via Google's home page. Once a search term has been entered (such as "data center"), the user has the option of clicking on a hyperlink below the search bar that reads, "Show Options."

Clicking on that hyperlink gives the user the option of seeing only those search results that fall into specific categories, such as videos, reviews or forums. Users can also parse the results by time frame, and indicate whether they want to see images or more text from the found pages. Options can be combined to create a progressively narrower search.

One of the new subfeatures of Google Search Options is "Wonder Wheel," which represents a search term graphically as a wheel hub, with "spokes" of related topics branching off from it.

About midway through the event, Marissa Mayer, vice president of Search and User Experience for Google, referred to SearchWiki as a "big success." The SearchWiki application, launched in November 2008, allows users to edit and compose notes as they search for information online. Google's Universal Search has also been gaining traction, with the company saying one in four search results now triggers the utility, which displays video, image and other search engine results in addition to traditional Web pages.

Mayer also discussed Google Squared, another search application due to roll out through Google Labs by the beginning of June. Designed to take "unstructured information and present it in a structured way," the application will take information gathered from a search and use it to create a customized table.

Within this spreadsheet-style display, Google will sort more detailed information about the search term. Google's demo showed how a search for "small dogs" created a table that listed information such as size and breeds.

Other products on display included rich snippets, which display extra metadata, and Sky Map, an Android application that lets the user find star positions. Shifting direction will shift the map on the phone, keeping the map oriented correctly.

Google maintains a comfortable market-share lead in the search engine arena, with 63.7 percent of the market, according to research company ComScore. In March, Americans used Google sites for some 9.1 billion searches, compared with 2.9 billion using Yahoo search and 1.2 billion using Microsoft search.

However, rumors have Microsoft and Yahoo in possible talks to set aside any ill will over Microsoft's 2008 failed takeover bid and unite in a search or advertising deal. While even the combined market share for the two companies would not be enough to overcome Google's lead, Google does seem concerned that the federal government could step in with antitrust initiatives that would hobble its ability to stay dominant.