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Google Launches Experimental Search Engine

The SearchMash home page is playing it low key about its link to Google, which chose to keep the brand off its home page to gather unbiased data from visitors.

Antone Gonsalves

October 18, 2006

3 Min Read

Google has launched an unbranded, experimental site to test search features that could one day show up in its current online search engine.

The SearchMash homepage gives no indication that its from Google. To see the connection, one has to go the privacy page.

"SearchMash is a website operated by Google Inc.," the page says. "The Google Privacy Policy describes how we treat personal information when you use our products and services, including information provided when you use SearchMash."

A Google spokeswoman said in an email that the site was launched recently to test possible features for the regular search engine. There's no guarantee, however, any of the features would be used.

The site does not include Google branding, so the company can gather more objective data about users, the spokeswoman said. For this reason, the site did not come from Google Labs, a site that regularly launches new products in beta.

"One of the important factors we wanted to address was the influence that may come from Google branding," she said. "Creating a separate site will help us gather more objective data about user response to new interfaces."

As to how Google can get sufficient traffic to a site that hasn't been publicized: "We have various methods for driving traffic to search and UI (user interface) experiments that we run, however, we do not share details regarding the methodology to help keep the results as objective as possible," the spokesman said. She declined to say how many people have visited SearchMash.

SearchMash features include the ability to rearrange the order of text results by simply dragging them to any position. The results are numbered and listed on the left. Image results are listed on the right.

In addition, clicking the green URL of a result opens a menu of options, including opening the site in the current or new window, getting a list with descriptions of other pages on the site, or similar pages on the Web.

Finally, the search engine lists the first 10 results, but users can click a "more results" bar at the bottom to load the next 10 items and scroll down to view them. Users can add as many sets of items as they want.

SearchMash's current features do not appear to break new ground in the industry. Search engine A9.com, which is owned by online retailer Amazon.com, automatically adds the next 10 results as a person scrolls down the listings. Windows Live Search from Microsoft includes several unique features, including the ability to create a customized search engine focused on specific Web sites. Yahoo also offers the ability to build your own search engine.

Google often runs tests on the Web that are visible to a relatively few people. In April, the company explained in its blog that it sometimes randomly selects a group of people to see an experimental test option or a new element while they're searching. As a result, a person using Google will sometimes see a slightly different site, than others.

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