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Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 10 News List

New Google services draw on users' input


As it works to extend its lead over Microsoft and Yahoo in the Web search wars, Google is asking its millions of users to help. The company introduced several services on Wednesday that draw on contributions from users.

"The first rule of the Internet is `people have a lot to say,'" Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, told reporters at a day-long presentation here.

Google's new efforts are an answer to Yahoo, its main search rival, which has tried to differentiate its products by adding social features. MyWeb from Yahoo, for example, allows users to identify and label interesting Web pages and share them with their friends.

On Wednesday, Google introduced a beta, or test service, called Google Co-op. Eventually it will allow Google users to mark Web pages they like and associate each page with certain topics. For now the service is mainly of use to large organizations, which can mark their own sites with labels and submit them to Google to make relevant information easier to find in search results.

Initially, Google has focused the Co-op service on two areas, health and local guides, and the handful of participating sites includes the Mayo Clinic and OpenTable, a restaurant reservation service. In several weeks it will create an easy way for individuals to label any page on the Web, and it will add more topics like autos and consumer electronics.

Users will be able to "subscribe" to the Web sites flagged by certain organizations or people, so those sites will be featured prominently when they conduct Web searches.

Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president for search products, said in an interview that a chief purpose of the new product was to help improve Google's main search by determining which sites gathered the most interest from users.

"A little bit of human involvement goes a long way," Mayer said.

As on social networking sites like MySpace, users of the Co-op service will be able to create a page with a profile that describes their interests and expertise.

Google also said it would introduce a product next week called Google Notebook, which allows users to record information they have found on a series of Web pages. They can choose to make their research public, to send it to friends and to have it included in Google's index of Web pages.

"If someone has planned a great Hawaiian vacation with great research into snorkel boats, they should be able to share it," Mayer said.

The company also introduced Google Trends, a way to see how often people are searching for certain terms on its site and where in the world those searches are popular.

Additionally, Google would start testing a new version of its Google Desktop software that allows very small programs, like a weather indicator, to be placed anywhere on the user's computer screen. Similar software is already offered by Apple Computer and Yahoo.

In broader comments, Schmidt said that despite the company's expansion in many areas, from wireless Internet access to online chat, its core focus was still on Internet search and search-related advertising.

"We have more people working on search than ever before," he said. "You will see better search, more personal search and more international search."

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