Google The Future, According to Google’s Results

Today’s XKCD comic explores the future using the top Google results for queries like “by the year *”, “by <year> *”. According to Google’s search results, one year after the 2012 Apocalypse, “microchipping of all Americans begins”. In 2014 “GNU/Linux becomes the dominant OS” and by the year 2020, HTML5 is finished and “newspapers become obsolete and die out”.


Here’s the entire future timeline, which includes prediction about Android, US debt, India, world population, global warming and robot policemen.

{ comic licensed as Creative Commons }

Google Tests a Search Option for Definitions

Google experiments with a search option that lets you find the definition of a word without using the define: operator or adding “definition” to the query. Selecting the “dictionary” option from the sidebar doesn’t restrict the results to sites like Dictionary.com and Answers.com, but shows the information that’s available in Google Dictionary. To be fair, Google includes a section called “web definitions” that shows definitions from Wikipedia, WordNet and from different glossaries.


This feature is not yet available to everyone, but you can always install extensions like Google Dictionary for Chrome, Google Dictionary and Google Translate for Firefox or add Google Dictionary to your browser’s search engines.

More Google Social Search Results

When Social Search was released, Google displayed a small OneBox at the bottom of the first search results page that included relevant pages shared by your friends. A few weeks ago, Google started to show social search results anywhere on the page.

If that wasn’t enough, Google added huge lists of social search results at the bottom of the second, third and fourth page of results. After the ten regular results, Google shows other ten results from your social circle. Sometimes Google’s social results are useful, but that’s not always the case. For example, a search for [Firefox 4] returns many outdated pages about Firefox.


It’s interesting to notice that social search results need more space than the regular results:

Chrome Bookmarks Integrate with Google Search

Until recently, Google Bookmarks and Chrome Bookmarks were two separate features that didn’t speak the same language. Even if you could save your Chrome bookmarks to a Google account, they weren’t saved to Google Bookmarks. For some reason, your bookmarks are available in a special Google Docs folder.

Chrome bookmarks have a web interface, but it’s likely that the obvious will happen: Chrome bookmarks could be saved to Google Bookmarks. Jérôme Flipo noticed that the Google Bookmarks OneBox already includes Chrome bookmarks. I’ve tried to find SmallNetBuilder.com and Google’s OneBox returned it even if it was starred in Chrome, not in Google Bookmarks.


No More Starred Results in Google Search

Last year, Google replaced SearchWiki with starred results. You only had to click on a star to bookmark a search result and to quickly find it later.

Unfortunately, this feature is no longer available and you have to find other ways to bookmark search results: bookmarklets, Google Toolbar and other extensions.

A Google employee confirmed this change. “The Star feature no longer exists on Google. The Star function continues to exist through google.com/bookmarks though. Anything you previously starred will show up when you visit bookmarks.”


Starred results and SearchWiki were really useful for refinding web pages, but probably not many people used them. These features were a lot more useful than Instant Preview, which is still available.

{ Thanks, Joel. }

Finding more high-quality sites in search

Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.

It’s worth noting that this update does not rely on the feedback we’ve received from the Personal Blocklist Chrome extension, which we launched last week. However, we did compare the Blocklist data we gathered with the sites identified by our algorithm, and we were very pleased that the preferences our users expressed by using the extension are well represented. If you take the top several dozen or so most-blocked domains from the Chrome extension, then this algorithmic change addresses 84% of them, which is strong independent confirmation of the user benefits.

So, we’re very excited about this new ranking improvement because we believe it’s a big step in the right direction of helping people find ever higher quality in our results. We’ve been tackling these issues for more than a year, and working on this specific change for the past few months. And we’re working on many more updates that we believe will substantially improve the quality of the pages in our results.

To start with, we’re launching this change in the U.S. only; we plan to roll it out elsewhere over time. We’ll keep you posted as we roll this and other changes out, and as always please keep giving us feedback about the quality of our results because it really helps us to improve Google Search.

Posted by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, and Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer

More About Google’s Reading Level Filter

Google’s Daniel M. Russell has more information about the reading level filter, a feature recently added to the advanced search page.

The reading-level is based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a model of the intrinsic complexity of the text. (…) We also used data from Google Scholar, since most of the articles in Scholar are considered advanced.

So the breakdown isn’t grade- or age-specific, but reflects the judgments of teachers as to overall level of difficulty. Roughly speaking, “Basic” is elementary level texts, while “Intermediate” is anything above that level up to technical and scholarly articles, a la the articles you’d find in Scholar.

That’s not exact, but it’s a fairly robust model that works across a wide variety of different text styles and web pages.


Unfortunately, the feature only works for English and it’s probably difficult to add support for other languages.

Google Social Search, a Recommendation Engine

Google Social Search is not a new feature, but it wasn’t that important until now. Google used to display at the bottom of the search results page a few links to pages created or recommended by your friends and social connections. The feature automatically obtained data from Google Reader, Google Buzz, Gmail Contacts, Twitter and other sites linked from your Google profile.

Google’s blog announced that Social Search will be used to enhance Google results and will become a ranking signal. Social Search borrowed Hotpot’s interface that annotates results with messages like “Dan rated this place 5 stars”, so you can see why a page ranks so high.


“Social search results will now be mixed throughout your results based on their relevance (in the past they only appeared at the bottom). This means you’ll start seeing more from people like co-workers and friends, with annotations below the results they’ve shared or created. So if you’re thinking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and your colleague Matt has written a blog post about his own experience, then we’ll bump up that post with a note and a picture,” explains Google.

Sometimes a web page is more valuable if it has been recommended by a friend because you probably trust that person. Google uses data from your Google account or publicly available data to generate a list of social connections, but you can’t highlight the people you trust or customize the list. What you can do is to add links to your Google profile and to import data that’s not publicly available. The Google Accounts page will include an option that lets connect your accounts from services like LinkedIn and import your contacts.

An update to Google Social Search

First, social search results will now be mixed throughout your results based on their relevance (in the past they only appeared at the bottom). This means you’ll start seeing more from people like co-workers and friends, with annotations below the results they’ve shared or created. So if you’re thinking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and your colleague Matt has written a blog post about his own experience, then we’ll bump up that post with a note and a picture:

Social search results can rank anywhere on the page, and you’ll see who shared the result in the annotation underneath


Second, we’ve made Social Search more comprehensive by adding notes for links people have shared on Twitter and other sites. In the past, we’d show you results people created and linked through their Google profiles. Now, if someone you’re connected to has publicly shared a link, we may show that link in your results with a clear annotation (which is visible only to you, and only when you’re signed in). For example, if you’re looking for a video of President Obama on “The Daily Show” and your friend Nundu tweeted the video, that result might show up higher in your results and you’ll see a note with a picture of Nundu:

Now Social Search includes links people share on Twitter and other services


Third, we’ve given you more control over how you connect accounts, and made connecting accounts more convenient. You can still connect accounts publicly on your Google profile, but now we’ve added a new option to connect accounts privately in your Google Account. (After all, you may not want everyone to know you’re @spongebobsuperfan on Twitter.) In addition, if our algorithms find a public account that might be yours (for example, because the usernames are the same), we may invite you to connect your accounts right on the search results page and in your Google Account settings:

The new setting enables you to choose whether or not to show your connected accounts publicly on your Google profile


For an overview of Google Social Search and our new features, check out the explanatory video:

As always, you’ll only get social search results when you choose to log in to your Google Account. We’re starting to roll out the updates today on Google.com in English only and you’ll see them appear in the coming week. With these changes, we want to help you find the most relevant information possible, personalized to your interests and the people you care about. To learn more, check out our help center.

Posted by Mike Cassidy, Product Management Director, and Matthew Kulick, Product Manager Permalink

Block sites from Google’s web search results from New Chrome extension

You can download the extension and start blocking sites now. It looks like this:


When you block a site with the extension, you won’t see results from that domain again in your Google search results. You can always revoke a blocked site at the bottom of the search results, so it’s easy to undo blocks:


You can also edit your list of blocked sites by clicking on the extension’s icon in the top right of the Chrome window.


This is an early test, but the extension is available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. We hope this extension improves your search experience, and thanks in advance for participating in this experiment. If you’re a tech-savvy Chrome user, please download and try the Personal Blocklist extension today.

Posted by Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer

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