Google tries again in search personalization

People were skittish about elevating or deleting search results using Google's SearchWiki. Instead, they can now personalize results with stars.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
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More than a year after introducing SearchWiki, Google has decided to try a different approach for personalizing search results: stars.

SearchWiki let people promote or delete various entries in search results. Now Google is switching to a system that instead lets people click a star marker next to search results they like.

"The next time you perform a search, that item will appear in a special list right at the top of your results when relevant," product manager Cedric Dupont and programmer Matthew Watson said Wednesday in a blog post.

The star metaphor is spreading across Google. People can star messages they want to flag in Gmail, star issues they want to see addressed in Google's software bug-tracker, and star RSS feed items in Google Reader. The new star system announced Wednesday also applies to maps, Google said.

What was wrong with SearchWiki?

"In our testing, we learned that people really liked the idea of marking a Web site for future reference, but they didn't like changing the order of Google's organic search results," Dupont and Watson said.

Starred entries can be seen and edited through Google Bookmarks and the Google Toolbar.

Google stars.
When a search result you like appears--in this case one for the Windsor and Maidenhead public library--you can click a white star icon next to it to tell Google you like it. Once clicked, the star turns yellow. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Starred items
Once an item is starred, it can appear in a related search in a special section at the top of the search results. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET