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Old 05-13-09, 04:47 AM
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Google Adds Menu, Plans Other Changes

Google Adds Menu, Plans Other Changes

Google Inc. Tuesday said it would add a new menu to its search-results page to help users refine results by a broader range of variables. It also announced an online service that compiles search results into a spreadsheet.

The services represent the search giant's latest crack at coming up with new ways to make search results more useful to consumers. The new refinement feature will let users filter their results by a number of factors, including how new the information is. A search for a celebrity would show recent news about the person, as opposed to their official Web site, for instance. Until now, Google users saw a general view that ranked results based on Google's algorithms.

The search options menu also lets users see their results in different visual formats, such as a graphic called the Wonder Wheel that shows topics related to a query as different spokes. For a search for "President Obama," the feature shows spokes like "Michelle Obama" and "Barack Obama news."

Google Vice President Marissa Mayer told reporters that the new features "open up whole new ways of searching that haven't previously been available."

The company unveiled the services -- and several other upcoming refinements -- as it continues to dominate the Web search market. Google accounted for 63% of all Web searches in the U.S. in January, according to comScore Inc.

But Google and its competitors say the industry is evolving fast, forcing them to adapt quickly. One area gaining attention involves ways to help users find better answers to broad questions -- such as what sort of product they should buy or where they should go on vacation. Broad questions require a search engine to have a better understanding of the data it finds on a Web page; the engine needs to discern what type of data something is -- say, a temperature or a flight time, rather than a string of text.

A soon-to-be launched service called Wolfram Alpha purports to answer some types of questions with factual data.

Google announced a step in that direction Tuesday, called "Google Squared." The service, which it will introduce in its online area for experiments called "Google Labs," will automatically send results from a search into a spreadsheet. Google will search for the most relevant results and determine what the most relevant row and column labels are for a query -- say "price" and "color" for a user searching for "mountain bike." The service will generate a matrix with the items filled in and with links back to the Web pages from which it drew the content.

Write to Jessica E. Vascellaro at [email protected]

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