Google exec touts universal search model

Saying that users are tired of being inundated by information, the company seeks to offer 'better, richer answers' to search queries

Google's recently introduced universal search model represents a major change for the company, a Google official said at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose last Thursday.

Unveiled May 16, universal search is intended to break down silos of information on the Web and provide the best answer every time a user enters a query. The company's vision for universal search is to search across content sources, compare and rank information in real time, and deliver a single set of integrated results.

"The idea for universal search was really to move away from 10 links and try to give users better, richer answers," said Marissa Mayer, president of search products and user experience at Google.

Today, Google offers illustrations that answer a question, such as maps, news images, and video integrated into the main search results. The company will look at adding other data, such as blogs, she said, and the incorporation of YouTube videos also is part of universal search.

"Our mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," she said.

Users, Mayer said, want quality results after having been overloaded with information.

Google gets better everyday, she said. Search engines available in 10 to 15 years thus will be better than what is offered now, she said. "It will be understand more about the user that's using it," said Mayer.

Personalized search is just in its infancy, she said. Google believes personalized results will become the default mode for the user, Mayer said.

To address privacy, users must sign up for the increased functionality.

Commenting on Google's use of algorithms, Mayer said the company does view algorithms as important. "With that said, once you have that base of algorithms, you layer human input into it," she said.

Mayer also noted Google's experimental, voice-based service to make local business in the US search accessible via a phone by dialing 1-800-GOOG-411.

Mobile search, meanwhile, provides monetization opportunities in that advertisers can advertise to people when they know where they are. "We think that's a really rich monetization opportunity," said Mayer.

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