Mountain View (CA) – Google today announced may be the most significant enhancement to the company’s core search engine in several years: Google is integrating search engines that so far have operated as separate entities into the main Google search. It also marks the first time that YouTube is closely embedded into Google search results.
Google’s “search-ology” briefing started early today as so many Google briefings, which sometimes promise more information than they actually deliver. But the company held back a big news item until the very end of the event: Google today launched a major new functionality to its search engine, called Universal Search.
Universal Search, which Google said has been in the making for the past two years, combines searches across the regular search engine, books, local, images, news and videos. The transition from the old, standalone main Google search to an integrated search results in a very subtle visual change on the search results page – in fact, in most cases users will have to look very closely to notice Universal Search at all. However, when in full swing, searches run through the main Google engine will return, for example, maps and images of hotels, videos about historic events and how-to topics, or news items about people of current interest.
Google claims that it was able to apply an enhanced page ranking system across all different media and list the most relevant search results on the top of the page – where readers are most likely scan results for the information they are looking for.
Company representatives said that Universal Search required a whole new infrastructure for search, keeping more than 100 engineers busy over a period of more than two years. The company declined to provide details how much more computational power Universal Search requires. Udi Manber, vice president of engineering said that the change “obviously suggests than running ten queries instead of one results in about ten times then cost.” In reality, “it is much closer to one,” he said.
Universal Search is the first time that we see YouTube to be tightly integrated in Google. Google videos and YouTube videos will play right out of the search results page; videos found on other websites will not play in Google and Google will drive traffic to those sites instead. According to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the integration of YouTube into Google will not only show the entertainment value of the video site, but highlight the research value, which he described as “underappreciated” today. He hopes that especially how-to videos will improve the search results offered by Google.
Universal Search is going online sometime today and should be available everywhere on the globe sometime tomorrow.