Google rolls out personalized search, Web alerts

Google's Labs has cooked up two new search offerings, introducing a Personalized Web Search and Web Alerts, as part of the company's plans to continue to heat up the market.

The new services, currently in beta test, were unveiled Monday by Google's Labs testing ground division. The first, Personalized Web Search, has users fill out a personal preference profile and then provides search results based on interests.

For instance, users signifying an interest in music and searching for the word "bass" will receive listings on the instrument as opposed to receiving an outdoor enthusiasts' results on the fish, Google said. The degree of personalization can also be adjusted on a sliding scale, allowing users to receive results that stick close to their preferences or are more general in nature.

The company also introduced Web Alerts, which work much like Google News Alerts. Users can indicate which topics interest them and receive regular e-mail updates with links to new Web pages and news stories related to the query.

The offerings come just days after Microsoft Corp. announced two of its upcoming search-related services while announcing its intention to be a major player in the market. The software giant said that it would be offering news and blog search services later this year.

But Google's new products are more focused on search personalization, which analysts and industry players have touted as the next battleground in the war to win users. In a review of Google's Personalized Search, Editor Danny Sullivan noted that Google is the first provider to give users the ability to play around with personalized services.

The company also polished up its front page, adding a hyperlink to its Froogle comparison shopping service atop its main query bar and a new "more" link to some of its lesser known services, Sullivan noted.

Google also began offering a number range advanced search feature, allowing users to specify that results contain numbers in a range they set, and added images to its News search results.

While Google continues to roll out new features it remains to be seen how rivals like Microsoft and Yahoo Inc. respond. Both companies have put search in the spotlight, making all their results, in a way, personal.

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