Google Inc. has added customization features to its popular news search site by letting users choose categories and track keywords.
The Mountain View, Calif., company released the feature Thursday as a way for users to rearrange the presentation of news categories and to create their own sections.
Users can select among nine languages, 22 localized editions of Google News ranging from the United States to China, and news categories such as world news or entertainment news. Also, they can choose to create a section for tracking a keyword search of Googles news index.
Marissa Mayer, Googles director of consumer Web products, said that the customization options are an extension of Google Alerts, a feature released in 2003 that sends users e-mail notifications when news stories match keywords.
“People find that news is a personal thing,” Mayer said.
Google is entering personalized news search following earlier moves by its competitors. Yahoo Inc.s news search lets users rearrange layout elements and choose news categories, and Microsoft Corp.s MSN division last year launched its Newsbot service that suggests stories based on user behavior.
Startups such as Topix.net and Findory Inc. also provide ways for users to hone news results.
At the same time, Yahoo and MSN have ramped up efforts on their personalized home pages to allow users to aggregate emerging sources of news and information from Weblogs using RSS feeds.
Google is not trying to emulate personalized home pages but instead focus on online news, Mayer said. For its English results, Google News draws its results from 4,500 sources. To be included, an online news source typically must have an editorial staff or editorial review of its content, so the index largely does not include blogs, Mayer said.
“Were designing [this] for the very interested news reader and not for someone trying to customize a home page with e-mail, weather, stock quotes and movies,” Mayer said.
As far as RSS, Google may use XML-based news feeds on its back end to draw in news sources but is not providing a way for users to subscribe to and track feeds in Google News. Instead, Google News focuses on its clustering techniques for grouping related news stories together, Mayer said.
“Were not an alternate interface, but we bring a value proposition to the user,” Mayer said. “And that value proposition is clustering.”
In another customization option, Google is letting users share their Google News pages with other people by providing a URL for each customized page.