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Google image index hits 1 billion mark

The search company has been the picture of success in recent years--and wants to keep things that way. Images: Google tunes in TV search

Google said Tuesday that following a recent expansion, its image index now contains more than 1 billion pictures.

Google has been the most popular search engine on the Internet for some time, but because of increasing competition from Yahoo, Microsoft and a large number of smaller, localized search engines, the company has had to continue expanding its reach by indexing previously unavailable Web content.

A Google representative also told ZDNet Australia that the company recently passed the 8-billion-page mark with its Web page index, as well as increasing its image index.

"A billion images is a milestone for us," the representative said. "We now have nearly 1.2 billion images in our image index...We have found a whole load of new images on the Web and expanded our comprehensiveness on that front."

In the past, Google has made it a practice to not only expand its content indexes but also to publish material that was not previously available on the Web.

Google's TV search

In January, the company launched a prototype of Google Video, which is an engine that lets people search the text of TV shows. To start with, the service is scouring programming from PBS, Fox News, C-SPAN, ABC and the NBA, among others, making broadcast transcripts searchable the same day they aired.

Craig Silverstein, director of technology at Google and its first official employee, explained that the company's long-term policy is to index content that is already published but also to make previously unsearchable content--such as hard-copy catalogs--available online.

"We took a bunch of mail order catalogs, many of which are not online because they are very small. We converted them to text and made them searchable," he said, referring to a feature the search giant started testing in 2001. "This information wasn't even available electronically, but now you can search it, and we are hoping to get more of that type of information available."

Also Tuesday, Google quietly launched a beta site for a new map service. The offering features a few tweaks to standard mapping services--it lets people click and drag maps, for example, instead of having to click and reload, and offers magnified views of specific spots that pop up in bubbles.

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.