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How do you search when you use the Google Chrome browser? Do you enter the search term directly in the address bar, open the Google search homepage and search there or do something else? Highlight to Search is a very popular Google Chrome extension that adds a feature to search by simply highlighting text in the browser. And with popular I mean mighty. More than 71,000 users have installed the extension at this point in time. 2800 users install the extension every week indicating that usage is rising.
But wait a minute. Highlight text and then search for that text on Google? Does not that sound all to familiar? Right. When you highlight text in Chrome and right-click that text afterwards, you get an option to search for the highlighted text on Google.
To be fair, the extension is not entirely redundant. When you highlight text after installing the extension, you will see a magnifying glass icon appear next to it. It is now possible to click on that icon, or the keyword itself, to open a search box with auto complete to search for that term.
So, the only benefit of this is that you can alter the search term if you like. But you can do that on the search results page as well. The negatives? Well, you are running an extension when you may not really need it. And, it does not work on https websites while the context menu entry does.
I cannot really say when Google started to implement the context menu search option. It can be that the company created the extension first, and added the search option at a later time. This would explain why I have reviewed the Highlight To Search extension before on Ghacks.
Why am I writing about a more or less obsolete extension for the Chrome browser? First, it is an official extension by Google. It has not been updated since February but still, it is official and advertised prominently in the Chrome Web Store.
Second, to demonstrate that it is not always necessary to install extensions. That it actually may pay off to look at the browser’s functionality first before you go hunting for extensions for a specific purpose.
Have you ever installed extensions that you did not really need for a specific task? Let me know in the comments.
Peel off the layers of Platonian pomp -- "the thirst for knowledge doesn't stop when you step away from your computer" and "we're breaking down the barriers between you and the knowledge you see" and Google is becoming the Lamborghini of search.
Those quotes are how Google Fellow Amit Singhal described his search journey June 14 at the company's Inside Search event in San Francisco,
That journey accelerated last September with Google Instant and the company showed yesterday it has come a ways since then.
Not only can Google instantiate predictive search results on desktops and mobile devices, but it can now apply this approach to actual results Web pages.
Indeed, watching Google Chrome Product Manager Alex Komoroske demonstrate this feat, in which Websites appear to load almost instantly when users click on them from the search results page, was amazing to me.
The feature, Komoroske explained, is enabled by prerendering, a technology that he and his team built into the upcoming version of Chrome, version 13. He noted:
Sometimes a site may be able to predict with reasonable accuracy which link the user is most likely to click on next--for example, the 'next page' link in a multi-page news article. In those cases, it would be faster and better for the user if the browser could get a head start loading the next page so that when the user clicks the page is already well on its way to being loaded.
In a side-by-side example, Komoroske saved about 4 to 5 seconds with Instant Pages compared to regular Instant search.
Note here how The Washington Post Web page on the left is missing some of its masthead while the same page prerendered is already done on the right:
Google April 19 jazzed up Google Toolbar 7 for Internet Explorer with Google Instant, the company's predictive search technology.
Google Instant surfaces search results to users as they type their require, eliminating the need for users to hit the enter button.
You'd be surprised how much time this saves users, who spend 9 seconds on average entering a search query into Google. After they hit the search button, the query spends an average of 300 milliseconds traversing Google's servers before results hurtle back to the users, who spend an average of 15 seconds picking a selection from the results.
Google Instant shaves time off the task by predicting what users are looking for as they type.
The technology has been paired with Google.com and in Google's Chrome Web browser, but by adding it to the new Toolbar Google is making the tool much more attractive to users who want to accelerate their search experience.
Another cool feature paired with Instant in Toolbar 7: users who want to return to a page they were on while typing their search can hit the Escape button, or by hitting IE's back button once you've found the info you want.
However, here are the caveats. First, Toolbar Instant works on IE8 and IE9 so users running an older version of IE must upgrade or switch to Instant in Chrome. There's no doubt which Google prefers users to use.
Second, Toolbar users must actually enable instant by selecting it in the Toolbar options menu and clicking save.
Instant isn't the only perk in Google Toolbar 7. In an effort to clean up the user experience, tools that users patronize most will remain visible on the toolbar, while buttons that haven't been used recently will be moved to the new "More" button, which users can catch a screenshot of here
Unlike most of Google's Web services, this personalization is stored only on a user's computer, and not in Google's cloud. This means so no information is sent to Google unless they have enabled their usage statistics.
However, PageRank and spell check features require sharing some information with Google. Users may toggle these features on or off via a new privacy settings menu.
Just like with Chrome, those who already use Google Toolbar 6 will automatically be updated to the new version over the next few weeks.
Users may also download Google Toolbar 7 in English, with other language support coming over the next week.
Check out the demo of the highlights after the jump:
Once installed, you simply type the letter s and press space to invoke a Google-powered site search for the domain you're currently visiting. The top five matches load in a flash, and you can also click through to Google via the top link for complete results. It's a fast, simple way to get results which are limited to a specific domain -- and as we know from experience, Google search is nearly always a lot better than most on-site search boxes.
Google’s flagship native app for the iPhone has always been a little odd. First of all, it was called “Google Mobile App”, which seemed a bit redundant. More importantly, it just wasn’t really worth using instead of google.com in the Safari web browser itself. But a big update today fixes both issues — and showcases how it could be ever better still.
What was the “Google Mobile App” is now simply “Google Search”. And as you can see, it looks completely different. The homescreen is now a nice big Google logo with the search box. It also allows you to easily sign in to your account. And when you do a search, this graphical interface rolls upward to reveal the results. And a swipe to the left reveals different categories to filter your search.
In other words, Google’s native iPhone app finally feels pretty native, rather than just feeling like their mobile website crammed into a native shell. And the swipe-activated filters, voice search, and Google Goggles all bring the native awesomeness. And the Push Notification options for Gmail and Calendar finally seem to be speedy enough to actually use.
Google honored Verne, whose A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) captured many people's imaginations since they were published more than a century ago.
Check out the Doodle here:
Using CSS3, Google Doodler Jennifer Hom said anyone can navigate the Nautilus -- the famous ship from 20,000 Leagues -- by moving the lever on the right.
Even better, people using smartphones or tablets with built-in accelerometers and the latest versions of Google Chrome or Firefox can simply tilt their device to move the Nautilus.
OK, so this is really geeky, but kind of cool.
A recent article on Neowin caught my attention that suggested that Google was changing the default search engine at least for some users to Google encrypted search. Whenever these users search they are automatically redirected to https://encrypted.google.com instead of the standard Google search address.
Encrypted search, often referred to as Google SSL, improves the protection against some attack forms that spy on a computer’s traffic. SSL search is only enabled on some Google properties. Google images and Google Maps for instance are available over SSL currently.
Chrome users who have experienced the switch to encrypted search may want to know how they can disable the feature again. Other users on the other hand may want to enable encrypted search. The following guide explains how to do that.
Google Chrome searches are initiated from the Chrome address bar since there is no additional search form available in the interface.
To change the default search engine, users need to click on the Wrench icon in the Chrome address toolbar, and select options from the pulldown menu.
The default search engine can be selected under Search on the first page that is opened.
Available for selection are the standard unencrypted Google Search engine, encrypted Google Search, Bing and two location based services. It is furthermore possible to add search engines by clicking on Manage search engines.
Users can change the search engine with a click on the pulldown menu and the selection of one of the available search engines. Google unencrypted users can for instance selected Google encrypted to search with SSL from that moment on, Google encrypted users can switch back to the standard Google search engine, Bing, or one of the other available search engines to get rid of encrypted search.
With all the talk about Google‘s new “instant search” functionality it was only a matter of time until it was made available in the Chrome browser. Recent versions of the developer version of Google Chrome, and the Chrome Canary builds, are already compatible with Google Instant Search.
And with compatible we do not mean that users can open a Google Search page and search there. No, the instant search functionality has been integrated into the browser’s omnibar.
It is however not activated by default, and users need to start Chrome with the parameter --enable-match-preview to enable Instant Search in the Omnibar.
Once started with the parameter, the browser will automatically display search results for characters that are entered into the address bar of the browser. The behavior is different from that on Google’s search page though, as results can be divided into two groups.
The first result group is the typical Google search result listing, the second a matching page for the search term. Entering gh for instance in the address bar will load ghacks directly, while g will load the Google homepage. This may be linked to bookmarks in the browser.
There is obviously a problem with that, especially for users who type moderately. It could mean that they accidentally open a lot of pages while typing.
The search page looks different though, as the developers have decided to add the blank tab page information on top of the search results. A click with the mouse on the page that has been loaded removes those information immediately, while pressing return loads the page again without the information on top.
The developers should consider adding configuration options to the new search option, for instance an option to increase the time it takes before search results are displayed.
There is a lot flying around about Google Instant, the search engine's new streaming search technology, so I'm trying to put it all together with some links and catch some stat crumbs from the table.
Google Instant extends the Google Suggest capability by guessing users' queries as they begin to type them. Users needn't hit the enter button to see results. Each letter users type effectively is a query, surfacing results with each keystroke.
Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, and her colleagues Sept. 8 unveiled Google Instant at MOMA in San Francisco.
At the event, Mayer noted that Google handles more than a billion searches a day and Google has a billion users a week. That's a lot of searching by a lot of searchers!
The 1 billion-users-per-week number is double the total user base of Facebook, which boasts 500 million users. Now if Google could only find a way to bring those users together in one big social network.
In 2009, Google rolled out more than 500 user interface and ranking changes to Google Search. In 2010, Google has already introduced more than 500 changes to its ranking and UI. Hmmm.
I recently received a lightning bolt e-mail response to my eWEEK story from April 4, in which I explored the idea that Google could create some search application specifically to shield its App Store applications for the iPhone and iPad from Google's search index.
One anonymous reader wrote July 24:
"I work at apple, all I can say is YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!! IT WILL BE AWESOME!!!"
Emphasis is the writer's own. This could just be some prank pulled by someone who wants to fan the flames of competition between Google and Apple, whose jousts for the mobile Web have become bucket-of-popcorn-worthy events.
Or it could be someone in the know, who, upon pain of death, can't reveal his or her identity because of the iron curtain of Apple secrecy.
Can you imagine the reaction Google's leadership had behind closed doors to the New York Times' editorial that suggested the company let the government take a peek under its hood? It really is a "when hell freezes over proposition."
The venerable Times suggested, among other things, Google let the government check to see whether the search engine algorithm tweaks are benefiting Google's other businesses:
Still, the potential impact of Google's algorithm on the Internet economy is such that it is worth exploring ways to ensure that the editorial policy guiding Google's tweaks is solely intended to improve the quality of the results and not to help Google's other businesses.
Some early suggestions for how to accomplish this include having Google explain with some specified level of detail the editorial policy that guides its tweaks. Another would be to give some government commission the power to look at those tweaks.
In other words, the Times wants the world to see what the wizard is doing behind the curtain. Many of my peers and colleagues feel the Times is out of line here, but I commend the publication's curiosity. They, just like me and every other high-tech journalist, simply want to know what's in Google's secret search sauce.