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Software // Information Management

Google Adds Experimental Views Of Search Results

The search engine's Labs group tests three possible alternatives to the conventional format of a vertical list.

Google on Monday added three experimental views to its list of possible alternatives to the established vertical list of Web pages delivered as search results.

The latest additions, which people are free to try out if they have a Google account, are available through the Google Labs site. The idea behind the experimental search page is to give Google fans a chance to try out the search engine's newest ideas.

The latest experiments include a "map view" in which locations related to search results are marked on a street map. Users also have the option of viewing the location on a satellite view.

The map view could be helpful, for example, if a person was looking for all the musical performances around town or technology conferences happening in a state. Because traditional results are spread out over many sites and pages, they may be hard to visualize at once, so the map view is aimed at solving that problem by plotting some of the key locations.

Another experiment is the "timeline view," which is similar to the map view but for dates on the Web. Results on a search for Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president, would include a timeline on the top of the page with many dates related to Jefferson's life. The dates would be drawn from search results, and clicking on a date would reveal the related results. There's also a filter on the top right-hand corner of the page for setting a range of years, months, or days.

A third approach is the "info view," which is accessed through a control panel added to the right side of a traditional list of search results. The panel gives the option of rearranging results in order of importance related to dates, locations, measurements, or images. For example, if "dates" is chosen in a search for "space exploration," than the first result would be the date of Sputnik, the first successful orbital launch. The Soviet Union launched the satellite in 1957.

"If you run a search and find many of your results are looking similar, try using info view," Andrew Hogue, technology lead for the project, said in the company's blog. "It may highlight the differences between results and help you select the best page for your needs."

Google and other search engines are constantly working on helping people find what they want in search results that can sometimes include thousands of pages. Imaginestics' VizSeek site, for example, lets a manufacturer draw the part it's looking for, as well as enter keywords, when looking for a supplier.

Swedish startup Polar Rose is working on technology that can search actual images on the Web, rather than just tags or text surrounding a photo. The site is in beta.

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