Friday, October 06, 2006

Beyond Google Labs - SearchMash enters the fray

By Mark Scrimshire Earlier this week Google quietly launched a new search engine: It this time it appears to be positioned as a public testing ground for new ideas in search. By keeping the Google name out of view the intention appears to be to illicit feedback without being distorted by the search leaders name and reputation.

The interface is clean and uses Ajax to dynamically adapt to user search queries. For example, you can click on the url and select an action from a drop down menu. Options include: Open in this window, Open in a new window, open cached copy, more from this site and more similar pages. No new rocket science here, but it does provide a cleaner face than a typical google search entry.

So Google appears to be looking for a new Web 2.0 search interface by gathering user feedback. The word is getting around the blogosphere. It made me wonder if SearchMash has even made a blip on the radar yet. It certainly has. Neilsen produces a NetRatings search engine rankings that lists the top search engines. Google sits at the top with 49.2% in July 2006. The other players include Yahoo, MSN, AOL and has 2.6% of the online search market.

A quick check of Alexa shows us that in the space of one week Google's new creation has garnered pageviews that put it on a par with ask.

It is going to be interesting to see what features Google rolls-out to test through this prodigy and to see which features get incorporated in Google's flagship search platform. The choice of name is intriguing. Are we going to see Searchmash as a new embedable widget that can be incorporated in to other sites? Some of this capability is already available to Google Adsense users so Google must be thinking a little more radically. It may be that the biggest change is in the merger of search modes. Searchmash will present graphic image search results in the sidebar of any search. As an example I did a search for the term “ekive” and it came back with links to my web site but also presented some of the images used on the ekive web site.

The google approach seems to be in direct contrast to Microsoft's Web 2.0 ambitions. Google is creating a separate entity and testing concepts and gathering feedback independently of the core Google environment. Microsoft on the other hand is diverting traffic from existing web properties towards its new Live! brand. I covered this in a recent posting here (Windows Live - A case of reality distortion). In previous posts I have commended Google for their trailblazing Web 2.0 applications such as maps, gmail and calendar but in their core search they have been slow to revamp. SearchMash demonstrates that they are not languishing but are investing heavily in keeping their search tools on the cutting edge. It will be interesting to see if the new site continues to gain momentum.

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