Google unveils new applications

Announces update to Google Desktop, as well as several new products designed to enhance information gathering on the Web.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
3 min read
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google announced on Wednesday an update to its Google Desktop product, as well as several new products designed to enhance information gathering on the Web.

At its annual press day here in the Googleplex, the search giant took the lid off Google Desktop version 4, Google Notebook, Google Trends and Google Co-op.

The new version of Google Desktop lets people use mini-interactive applications from within the product's Sidebar without having to download software or open up a browser, said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience.

Mayer led a demonstration in which a song icon was dragged and dropped atop a media player, causing the song to start playing. Similarly, a video clip, titled "Laughing Babies," was dragged onto a player, launching a clip of a mother holding a gaggle of giggling babies.

"Nothing like a biological clock right there in your Sidebar," Mayer joked.

Google Desktop 4 is integrated with other Google products to let people use the Sidebar to, for instance, easily see when their friends' birthdays are via the Orkut social network, or see what events they have on a particular day via Google Calendar. Desktop 4 also synchronizes with other computers so that when a change is made on a person's work machine, it's reflected on the person's home computer, she said.

The software also can be configured to automatically create a customized home page. "It has figured out that I'm a movie buff and that I use eBay and I travel a lot," said Mayer.

Mayer also led a demonstration of Google Notebook, which she said will be available on Google Labs next week. Notebook is designed to let people click a "note this" link in the last line of a particular search result and save the result information to a virtual notebook in a pop-up window.

People can also grab text and pictures from Web sites and paste them into Google Notebook, as well as make the notebook full-screen size, drag and drop items to reorganize them, and e-mail the notebook to others. The program requires a plug-in and a Google account.

Google Trends, available immediately on Google Labs, graphs the number of global searches on whatever term a Google user types into the search engine. It also correlates spikes and dips with particular news and offers a bar graph that shows what region, country and language had the most searches on that term.

"If you are an advertiser and you want to understand trends in different geographies," Google Trends can provide useful information, said Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice president of product management.

He led a demo search on "boxers, briefs" and concluded that "boxers are apparently a little more popular than briefs" and did a search on the names of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and said, "Larry's traffic has clearly spiked."

Google also announced Google Co-op, which will be available next week. The social search service lets self-described experts in a field label or tag Web sites that Google will then include on the main search page. For example, experts can send a particular Web page from the Centers for Disease Control to Google and ask that it be labeled with the "malaria" tag. Users searching for "malaria" will then be given the option to refine their search by "causes and treatments" and "symptoms," and the sites that have been relevantly tagged will be displayed.

"People can create vertical searches built on Google Co-op technology," Mayer said. "It provides a deeper search experience inside the main search on specific topics."

Two prepopulated Google Co-op areas are related to health and city guides, she said.

Users also can subscribe to information from any or all of six flagship partners: OpenTable.com, GapMinder, Digg News, People (for celebrity profiles), Wine Spectator and Fandango. When the user searches on the main search page for a term and one of those sites is included in the results, the site will be denoted with a light green background to show that it is a subscribe link, she said. The companies are not paying to participate in the subscription part of Google Co-op, she said.