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11/11/2009
01:38 PM
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Google Search Visualizes Global Data

Data made available by the World Bank is now being used to provide visual support for statistical queries.

Google is expanding its search data visualization effort with the addition of 17 world development indicators from the World Bank.

Google Search users seeking information about life expectancy in France, for example, will now be presented with a summary chart atop Google's list of search results.

Clicking on these charts leads to a more detailed interactive chart that allows the visualized data to be compared to related data in other countries.

Google has also added the ability to embed these charts on personal Web sites and blogs using the "Link" button in the upper right-hand corner of the chart page.

The data visualization effort expands upon Google's April addition of search results charts derived from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau data.

Ola Rosling, product manager on the search team, said the global focus of the data should make Google's visualization capabilities more meaningful to Google users outside the U.S. "I'm from Sweden and I had a hard time getting Swedish people excited about local unemployment rates in the U.S.," he said.

Google's ability to generate data set graphs from search keywords is the result of its acquisition of Trendalyzer in 2007.

Rosling said that Google relies on user search volume to determine which data sets to render in chart form. "We see a lot of people desperately trying to find out information about the data in news articles," he said.

Visualizing data, he said, leads to happier users. "It's definitely improving the search experience for users," he said. "Users basically express their frustration by refining queries back and forth." There's less of that, he suggested, when search results include graphs.

The full set of World Bank indicators includes: child mortality rate (under age five), CO2 emissions per capita, electricity consumption per capita, energy use per capita, exports as percent of GDP, fertility rate, GDP deflator change, GDP growth rate, GNI per capita in PPP dollars, GDP, GNI in PPP dollars, imports as percent of GDP, Internet users as percent of population, life expectancy, military expenditure as percent of GDP, population, and population growth rate.

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