SAN JOSE, Calif. - For the first time, the 10 blue links on an Internet search page are not static.
Google on Monday launched its first real-time search results, serving up a page where breaking news stories, Twitter feeds, blog entries and other content automatically refreshes in an attempt to capture the world's ongoing online conversation.
At a slick announcement attended by members of the world's financial media at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., complete with a rock soundtrack and giant video screens, Google executives sought to make the case that their launch of real-time search was a historic moment for the Web.
"This is the comprehensive real-time Web, with Tweets, with news articles, with blogs and so on," said Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow who oversees the relevancy of searches. "I've worked in this field for many years, and I didn't think we would develop these technologies as quickly as we did."
For smart phones running its Android operating system, Google announced "Google Goggles," which allows users to do a visual search with an image from a cell phone camera, as well as the company's plan for early 2010 to enable smart phones to tap into Google's voice search ability to essentially become audio linguistic translating devices.
Real-time search began to roll out for users Monday and will become fully available to everyone by the end of the day Tuesday. Google said the real-time capability, which updates itself every few seconds, in the next several weeks will also include all public updates from Facebook and MySpace.
Real-time search is also available on mobile Google searches. The capability, which Microsoft's Bing search engine also plans to offer soon, required the development of "dozens" of new technologies, Google executives said.
"It's a technological marvel," said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president for search products and user experience. "Nothing like this has ever been done before."
Mayer, a skier, said she realized the power of Twitter's stream of real-time updates last year, when she realized that Tweets from skiers about snow conditions often were far more accurate than snow totals reported by resorts.
The "power" of such real-time results reported by people who were the actual witnesses to an event was something Google realized it needed to develop quickly, Mayer said.
A real-time search for "Tiger Woods update" was particularly active Monday afternoon, with a revolving list of links featuring including updates from the Florida Highway Patrol to newspaper columnists in New Hampshire, to rumors about a porn star becoming the latest woman linked to the golfer.
However, the subject of rumors, which may or may not prove to be accurate, are a significant problem for real-time search, Singhal acknowledged.
"Right now, we emphasize quality and relevance, and that often brings the truth out," said Singhal, who acknowledged there may be times "where the truth is not black and white."
Real-time search is only possible, Google says, because of years of technology development and the maturation of "cloud computing," where vast computing resources distributed across the Web can be harnessed to augment the power and speed of a search engine.
Singhal said that when he started at Google nine years ago, the company crawled and indexed the Web about once a month. Now, Google crawls the Web once every few seconds, and analyzes more than 1 billion information documents each day.
The increasing power of cloud-based networks, and the improvement of Google's voice search, which the company launched about a year ago, are also behind its plan to allow smart phones to function like universal linguistic translators.
Instead of having to learn the phrase, "Donde el bano?" for a trip to Mexico, a visiting American tourist would only have to say, "Where is the bathroom?" into his cell phone.
Google said it hoped to begin rolling out that technology in the first quarter of 2010, and would soon extend it to 51 languages.
Neither Google executives nor Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who attended Monday's real-time search announcement, would say how much Google is paying to access Twitter's feed. But Stone, shaking Mayer's hand after the announcement, pronounced himself "super excited."
"It's like 'Star Trek,' " Stone said.
(c) 2009, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).
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