Google held a special search event in San Francisco this morning to discuss several improvements to its Web and mobile search products.
Though details surrounding the Inside Search event were slim leading up to it, the company promised journalists it would give them “an under-the-hood look at Google Search, share our vision, and demo some of our newest technology and features.”
At a similar event last year, Google unveiled its Instant Search feature, allowing users to see results as they type queries into the search box.
This time around, the company focused first on mobile search. It reported that Web searching volume declines over the weekend after staying high during the workweek. With mobile search, however, Google’s traffic jumps on the weekend. The company also said that with mobile search traffic, there is no slowdown during the summer or holidays like there is for traditional Web searches. In fact, the company’s mobile search has been enjoying strong, consistent growth over the last few years.
To keep that going, the search giant unveiled several mobile search improvements, including a new set of icons on the company’s mobile search page, allowing users to find local establishments, including restaurants, coffee shops, attractions, and even gas stations. Upon clicking one of those items, users can scroll through different locales and see their placement on a map. After clicking an establishment, users will find relevant information, including its address and phone number.
Google also discussed instant search suggestions to help users get answers to their queries more quickly. In addition, the company has added “plus” icons next to suggestions to let users efficiently modify their queries. For example, if a user starts typing “Hilton,” and chooses the plus icon to add that to the search box, the search suggestions will change to queries related to Hilton, such as “Hilton Garden Inn,” for example.
Finally, Google showed off a new search user interface for tablets that makes better use of those devices’ large displays. People sifting through images in a tablet search also can now scroll without being forced to skip to other pages.
Google’s mobile search improvements are available now on the company’s mobile Web page.
Bringing mobile features to the Web
Google also said it wanted to bring some of its “mobile innovations” to its Web-based search service.
As such, it unveiled voice search for the Chrome browser. Users will soon find a microphone icon when accessing Google search from their Chrome browser, allowing them to speak a query. That service was previously only available through the company’s mobile search application. Google is beginning to roll that out to Chrome users today.
Google has also added a new Search By Image feature to its image search tool that delivers results based on a photo. Users can drag and drop an image into the search box, or instead choose to upload it or copy and paste it into the field.
After a photo is added to the search box, Google delivers relevant results related to it. So, if a person drops a picture of a location in the search box, for example, Google will return information about the place, as well as any Web results on the same topic. Chrome and Firefox extensions are also available to help users search for information on images they find around the Web.
Google’s voice search and Search by Image options are beginning to roll out on Chrome today.
Dubbed Instant Pages, the offering instantly renders a destination page. According to Google, users currently need to wait 5 seconds to get to a destination page from its search service. With Instant Pages, they won’t need to wait at all. In one example, Google said that The Washington Post’s homepage loaded in 3.2 seconds without help from Instant Pages, and took 0.0 seconds to load with the new feature’s help.
Like Google’s other Web search improvements, Instant Pages will only be available to Chrome users when they launch. The company will be making that new feature available this week in Chrome beta.
by Don Reisinger