Google Enterprise Search gets social
Enterprise users of Google's search appliance get new capabilities, including a social searching option.
Google's Enterprise Search Appliance customers are being notified of a free upgrade that's now available. It adds new features to the buttoned-down, behind-the-firewall search appliance designed for giant companies and their IT departments.
But the product now has an unbuttoned, free-for-all aspect that admins can turn on, that allows end users to stuff search results into the engine for other users at their company. Called KeyMatch, this feature lets users create specific results for search terms. For example, a user could add a search result for "picnic" that points to an intranet page about the company picnic. The search result will show up at the top of the results page, in the space that's reserved for sponsored links on the consumer version of Google Search. Yes, this means that your co-workers could conceivably spam your corporate search engine, but Google reps told me this hasn't happened in beta tests. This is partly because results are tagged with the name of the person who added the result. Also, corporate end users can remove links in the results they don't think are appropriate. KeyMatch was originally called, "Wiki KeyMatch," since it its free-for-all group editing capability is reminiscent of wikis (including a revision history).
Paranoid IT managers can turn this feature off or put access controls on it. I hope they don't. It's an interesting social experiment for corporations.
As before, the product can search structured data, such as internal corporate directories, company file servers, and databases. Google is adding links into enterprise content management services such as Documentum and Sharepoint, and an open API for other companies to hook into the search appliance. Google is also giving administrators more control on "biasing" of search results. PageRank doesn't always work for corporate data, and this lets companies rank results the way they want, turning up the relevancy of certain databases, for example.
The search engine now also lets individuals see all the data they're entitled to see, not just files open to everyone in a company. Not part of this release, but coming in a few weeks to the labs for Google Enterprise Search, is integration with the business version of Google Docs. Again, this function will let users search their own private documents as well as more open information. Combined with Google Desktop Search, this makes Google Search into a tool that can search all business documents and files and databases that a user might be looking for.
Also available to Enterprise users is a new autocomplete feature that makes searching faster, by popping up not just a "word wheel" of likely search terms, but actual snippets of search results as the user types. Google Enterprise Search can use "Universal Search" to display results: It doesn't just give users a page of links, but rather a structured presentation of data that comes from sources like Salesforce.com (which Google also searches) and other corporate databases.
In related Google enterprise news, the Postini acquisition is bearing fruit already: e-mail archives can be searched by the appliance. However, Google appears to be having a harder time digesting the wiki company Jotspot, which it acquired a year ago. There's still no wiki available from Google, an important gap in Google's business product set.