Monday, May 19, 2008
Today we hosted an informal gathering -- a factory tour of sorts -- to offer a glimpse into what we think is most exciting about search, and where innovation is most likely to come from. We also gave an update on Google Health.
On the search front, we wanted to share news about the way we think search is expanding. When we talk about search, we mean images, news, finance, books, local, and geographical information as well as web search. These media types are becoming more and more integral in our core universal search, but each presents its own challenges, innovations, and triumphs. Today R.J. Pittman, Director of Search Properties, showed some of the amazing advances we've made in image search -- we now offer an early form of face recognition on advanced search, for example -- as well as how ads might work to enhance the user experience on image search. He also demonstrated the interesting innovative technologies that Google News has deployed to support features like quotes from newsmakers and better quality search for local news.
Carter Maslan, Director of Local Search Quality, talked about our Geo products (Maps and Earth and their features) and the fact that they represent a considerable search problem: how do you take all of the information about the physical world and make it searchable? How do you label disputed borders? How can Street View help you find where you are going? Google Earth has helped archaeologists find things they've looked for for years (i.e. a Roman villa in someone's backyard). User-generated content is the rage right now, but in addition to entertaining shared videos and photos, the user-generated content that we're seeing on geo products is profoundly useful and helps us better understand the world.
Then, we turned to core search quality and got the latest update on web search from Johanna Wright, Director of Search Quality. It's amazing to me how sophisticated web search has become in such a short period of time. We've accomplished a lot with universal search this past year by bringing new form and function to our results page. Now, our search quality team is turning its attention toward the ever-elusive "user intent" ("this is what I typed, here's what I meant"). This will help us make universal search even more useful. You'll get pictures or maps when that's what you meant. Understanding user intent also helps us break down language barriers and find the best possible answer regardless of what language it's in or where it lives on the web.
In terms of new products, we made Google Health publicly available. It offers users a safe and secure way to collect, store, and manage their medical records and health information online. How many of us have touched, or even seen, our medical records? In this day and age of information, isn't it crazy that you don't have a copy of your medical records under your control? You could use those records to develop a better understanding of your health and ultimately get better care. It's your data about your own health; why shouldn't you own and control it?
Back in February, I wrote about how Google Health will harness the power of the Internet to put users in control of their own medical records. Data will stay with you -- if you change doctors, want a second opinion, if you're traveling -- and not stay siloed or stuck in files or databases that you can't get to. To break down these information silos, we launched Google Health today with several partners and third party services already integrated. These partners are as committed as we are to solving this urgent need. Our flagship partners include everyday brand names such as Walgreens, Quest Diagnostics and Longs Drugs, to name just a few.
In addition to helping you get better control of your medical information, we've also put strong privacy policies in place to keep your information safe and private. (Read more about this on our public policy blog.) There's a lot left to do in health -- literally thousands of partnerships to forge and petabytes of data to move around -- but we're looking forward to hearing feedback from early Google Health adopters about our first step.
Unrelated to Google Health but in the interest of helping people get healthier, we launched our Go for Good campaign with the Cleveland Clinic. The Walk for Good iGoogle gadget encourages you to be good to yourself by walking regularly and tracking your progress. If you finish week 15 of the program by October 25th this year and have completed at least half of the total walking program by then, you can vote to tell us which of the health charities from our list should receive part of a $100,000 donation.
Updates: Added links to partner sites and related public policy blog; embedded webcast from the event.