Google Shows Off "Co-op"
Google Inc. on Wednesday fired another
salvo aimed at maintaining the lead in Internet search while making its
software more accessible outside Web browsers in its ongoing duel with
rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.
The company is adding a new tool to make it easier to share information
through its online search engine and enabling users to download mini-applications,
or "widgets," designed to become fixtures on a computer screen.
Google also said it's planning to introduce an online notebook for its
users to paste and save search engine results.
The notebook, to be displayed as a small window in the right-hand corner
of a computer screen, won't be available until next week.
Google launched the other new products Wednesday in an effort to impress
more than 100 reporters invited to the company's Silicon Valley headquarters
to meet with the search engine's top executives.
The information-sharing feature, known as "Google Co-op," marks
the company's first foray into "social search" -- a niche that
has been a Yahoo focal point.
With the co-op service, users with a personal Google login will be able
to label, Web pages so the information can be easily found by other people,
including friends, family and co-workers.
The co-op feature also allows users to alert Google about their specific
interests, like movies, restaurants and celebrity gossip, so information
related to those topics appears near the top of the results page whenever
they make a relevant search request.
Yahoo has been developing more social search features as a way to differentiate
itself in its pursuit of Google, which has become more profitable than
its older rival.
In recent months, though, Google has widened its lead over both Yahoo
and Microsoft -- an advantage the company hopes to expand even further
by making a "heavy, heavy investment in new search algorithms,"
CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters Wednesday. He didn't provide specifics.
Google's ambitions extend beyond the Web browser. Toward that end, Google
unveiled its latest upgrade to its search engine for finding information
stored on computer hard drives.
The improvements include a toolbox of so-called widget software that
display snapshots of vital information, such as stock prices and weather,
without a Web browser.
The widgets, which Google calls "gadgets," show up as colorful
icons on the computer desktop -- an area long dominated by Microsoft,
the world's largest software maker.
Both Google and Microsoft have been spending billions to top one another
in a battle that is expected to escalate during the next few years as
they battle for high-tech supremacy.
"I do believe the winner will be the fastest innovator who partners
most broadly," said Schmidt, who added he still sees "limitless
growth" opportunities for Google.
Google is playing catch up with its gadgets. A small startup called Konfabulator
first introduced the widget concept for Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh
in 2002. Yahoo embraced widgets last year when it bought Konfabulator
for an undisclosed amount.
Using Google's gadgets requires installing the company's desktop search
software, which was introduced in 2004. Wednesday's upgrade represents
the fourth version of Google's desktop search.