Google Launches SearchWiki for Customized Search Results

Posted by: Rob Hof on November 20, 2008

After almost a year of testing and some recent early sightings, Google today is planning to launch SearchWiki, a way for searchers to edit their own search results. When you log into your Google account—and you need to have one for this—you can move a search result up using an up arrow button, get rid of a result with an X button, or suggest another listing with an “Add a result” link at the bottom of the search results page. You can also comment on any result, and others can see those comments. Here’s Google’s video demo:

You’re the only one who will see your re-ranked results, though you’ll be able to click on a “See all notes for this SearchWiki” link at the bottom of the page to see what search results others in aggregate have changed. What’s the deal here? Pretty straightforward, says Google product manager Cedric Dupont: “It gives users more control over their search results.”

Interestingly, in some of the tests of SearchWiki, the comments ended up generating something of a conversation. For instance, a search on California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, people offered their trenchant opinions on the measure. Dupont also figures people will use SearchWiki to get rid of spammy results or to serve as a bookmarking feature for searches they expect to do again.

For now, user re-ranking of results won’t have any impact on future or related searches, but Dupont doesn’t rule out user behavior influencing search results if it proves to produce better ones.

This isn’t an entirely new concept. Microsoft Research’s URank looks similar, and there are other more remotely related human-powered search results at Wikia Search and Mahalo. I’m not sure how many people will actually take the time to do this. But if you’re inclined, it looks like a way to make search results even more useful.

Reader Comments

Ben Kunz

November 24, 2008 8:43 PM

Rob, this is also a move by Google to defend its ad revenues. Search result pages may soon not be everyone's "front door" to the internet, as consumers migrate to social media and become comfortable with bookmarks. A quick scan of Google Trends shows that total search volume for many common phrases is trending down over the past four years.

The Wiki seems an obvious attempt to make searches "sticky" by allowing a user to customize a search -- and then, of course, come back to the same search again and again as a starting point. More traffic = more ad inventory = more clicks on Google PPC ads. A bit 1990s portal-ish, but a new portal attempt nonetheless.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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