FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 21, 2007
Top online search engine gets more convenient
Search engines are handy research tools for reports and other homework, though not all results lead to reliable sites with accurate facts. Invite the class to discuss the trustworthiness of newspaper archives compared to blogs, sports or entertainment fan sites and user-generated content at Wikipedia.
Google and similar services allow quick checks of dates, names, definitions and other specific details, but have limits for exploring broad subjects, unfamiliar topics or hometown events. Challenge students to list drawbacks of search engines versus newspapers or magazines for keeping up with developing stories, finding local diversions or satisfying general curiosity about a new area.
Many frequent Internet users still rely on traditional information and entertainment sources –- publications, books, television and radio broadcasts. Solicit reasons from the class by asking what advantages those delivery formats have. When are “original media” more convenient or useful than new media?
The most popular Internet search service is dramatically broadening the way it helps pinpoint information. In addition to showing relevant Web sites, Google’s master search engine now steers users to digital books, movies, images, news articles and maps that probably have answers or background they seek.
The upgrade, introduced last week in the U.S. and being rolled out gradually in other English-speaking countries, unites half a dozen Google services that required separate searches and weren’t widely known by most casual users. The company says the change, which results from a six-year project, is a step toward "universal search" -- the ability to sift through digital content of all kinds in response to queries typed into the search box at Google.com.
The redesign offers small windows for video clips that play on the page when clicked, rather than just links to pages where the videos can be seen. Google also incorporates local maps and listings related to searches, keyed to clues about a user’s location from past searches at the same terminal.
Example of benefits: A request for the "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. previously returned links to Web sites about King. The new search engine provides the speech text and a video of the civil rights leader delivering it as the top results. Lower links include books about King and photo galleries.
Rival says: “We are blending that information already. For a lot of the queries, we have the same multimedia content. We just don't make it as quick to access." -- Eckart Walther, vice president at Yahoo
See what's ahead: Google invites anyone to participate in its improvement efforts by going to www.google.com/experimental and trying some future approaches -- such as a timeline view that lets users type in a query such as "Apollo Space Program" and see a timeline of key events.
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