Google tests Hotel Finder comparison ads above search results

In July Google launched an experimental Hotel Finder tool, which allows users to search specifically for the most relevant hotel related results. The service allows users to find places to stay in select areas, get price comparisons in one convenient location, and compile a shortlist of potential destinations. According to Search Engine Land, Google is now testing rather large “Comparison ads” at the top of hotel related search results that display links to the Hotel Finder tool. The move apparently has the hotel industry concerned…
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Google search gets enhanced movie and theater results on Android and iPhone

Google is rolling out a nice new movie related feature to search on Android and iPhone. Now, when searching for “movies”, the first result will be a swipeable row of movie posters with descriptions, ratings, and the closest theatres and showtimes for the selected film. Tapping the title of any given movie will provide you with details on the cast and a full summary. Some movie posters will also have a play button letting you watch the film’s trailer, and selecting one of the showtimes will link you to where you can purchase tickets. This is obviously Google’s way of making it easier to find what’s playing at your local theatre when on the go.

You can also type “theaters” or the name of a specific movie theatre or movie for more refined results. Try it now by visiting on your iPhone or Android device.
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Eric Schmidt to meet European antitrust chief over accusations of search abuse

Google chairman Eric Schmidt is set to face the European competition commission this week to address potential antirust issues concerning their dominant position in the search business, according to a report from The Guardian. The meeting will be held by the commission’s antitrust chief, Joaquin Almunia, following initial talks held in January stemming from complaints by several search companies including Microsoft’s own Ciao.

Almunia is expected to present Google with a 400-page “statement of objections” that documents the commission’s research regarding “allegations that Google Inc has abused a dominant position in online search, in violation of European Union rules”.

The antitrust investigation started as far back as November 30, 2010, after claims from several search related companies including 1PlusV, Euro-Cities, and German organizations representing publishers filed complaints. The complaints themselves range from Google displaying there own services in search results to unfairly using content from publishers.

If Google is found guilty of abusing its dominant position in the market they could face fines up to 10% of the company’s annual turnover in Europe, or be forced to make changes to the way it runs its search business in the region. While some reported that during initial negotiations in January Almunia told Schmidt he would have a chance to offer up a solution, Almunia had this to say late last week about the upcoming meeting:
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Google launches redesigned Google Bar

Google has officially rolled out the next stage of their redesign with the an all new Google bar enabling users to quickly switch between services using Google menu, a drop-down list of Google services baked into the Google logo. The new bar, which replaces the old black toolbar, will also provide access to search and Google+ tools as highlighted in the video above. As part of the update, the new Google Menu will also be accessible when not signed into your account, providing quick links to Google services for everyone. Goog breaks it down:

Above each of Google’s products, the gray bar has three main regions. On the left, the Google logo contains a drop-down menu with links to Google services that displays when you hover over or click on it. The central area contains a search box for the Google service you are currently using. The right side features a share box and notifications to participate on Google+ from any Google page.

The roll out is happening now, but it might take a bit of time to reach all users. Until then, you can learn everything you need to know about the new Google bar here.

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The Evolution of Search: The history and future of search in six minutes

As a follow-up to the under the hood of search video detailing the “methodology behind search ranking and evaluation”, Google today released “The Evolution of Search” walking us through the history and evolution of search in six minutes. The video aims to highlight key milestones of search over the past decade, specifically Universal Results and Quick Answers, but also touches on the future of search with Google Instant and Voice Search.

Our goal is to get you to the answer you’re looking for faster and faster, creating a nearly seamless connection between your questions and the information you seek. That means you don’t generally need to know about the latest search feature in order to take advantage of it— simply type into the box as usual and find the answers you’re looking for.

In addition to the above video, Google put together the timeline below of search features they’ve added since the service first launched. Click for high-res.
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Google Search iOS app updated with overhauled iPad UI and full-screen mode for iPhone

Google has just released an update to their Google Search iOS app bringing with it a brand new design for iPad and full-screen mode for search results and pages on iPhone.

The new iPad interface is noticeably inspired by the design recently rolled out across the majority of Google’s web services. The main search page now has four grey icons as shortcuts to History, Applications, Voice Search, and Goggles, while a new side-by-side view allows you to browse webpages and search results simultaneously. Also included in the update in a full-screen browsing mode for images and a new visual UI for history allowing you to  thumb through results as pages. Instant Previews and Google Instant are now also baked into the iPad version.

As for the iPhone, the update only lists the usual minor bug fixes along with the full-screen mode mentioned above. As always, you can grab the updated Google Search app as a universal download now (iTunes link).  More screenshots below:
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Google testing new ‘sources’ section inside of Search results

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that the company is currently testing new a ‘sources’ display inside of Search. As you can see above, the sources section pulls in information, in this case about Rihanna, that has appeared on Wikipedia and various other sources. The section also pulls in song information, in Rihanna’s case.

In most instances while searching on Google you want to find definite information — fast. Google has implemented similar features inside of Search for weather, sports, math calculations, and more. Keep ‘em coming!

Google experimenting with redundant options in Search

It seems about every week that Google is testing out new features inside of Search. Today, Google Operating System discovered a small tweak inside of Search — that is pretty redundant. Google has put new specialized search options in a horizontal view under the search box. Previously it was a feature in the black bar and to the side.

As you can notice, quickly things are getting a bit redundant, but hey, that might be a good thing in this case. That’s three places you can now refine your search!

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Eric Schmidt: It’s possible to use Android without Google search

Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt is on Capitol Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on antitrust issues, competition policy and consumer rights. Just a quick note here. When asked whether Google can use Android to disadvantage competitors by tying that operating system to Google services, Schmidt responded, per transcript over at the Wall Street Journal blogs.

It’s possible to use Google search with Android but also possible to expressly not use Google search.

Also, Google has just been accused of “having monopoly power in Android”.

While some would be quick to accuse Schmidt of bending truth, there are in fact Android phones out there which use search engines other than Google. For example, Verizon’s Fascinate and Continuum smartphones are all Binged out and AT&T has some Android phones with Yahoo! search, like the Backflip.

In preparation for today’s hearing, the company this morning blogged that its users in both Europe and the U.S. are getting the same level of service and privacy protection:

Our approach, just like over 2,500 other US companies that offer services in Europe, is guided by the US – EU Safe Harbor Agreement, which is designed to ensure that transatlantic data transfers remain protected according to seven core EU-like privacy principles. In practice, for Google, Safe Harbor means our users in both Europe and the US can be sure they’re getting not just the same level of service, but also the same level of privacy protection.

And yesterday, Google published a survival guide of sorts to today’s hearing, tackling popular notions such as Google is favoring its own content or Google’s search ranking changes hurt a certain website or caused them to lose traffic. Concerning Google search, the company wrote:

Google makes more than 500 changes to our search algorithms every year, and each change is designed to improve the quality of our search results for consumers. Consumers come to search engines to help them sift through all the information on the web, and not every site can appear at the top of the results.

By the way, the Senate is live streaming the event so why not tune in?
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Google Goggles can now auto-upload your phone camera roll and check for visual search results

Goggles, a visual search technology from Google available on Android and iOS devices, is great for researching products, buildings and other objects simply by snapping them with your phone camera. Google announced in a blog post that a new version is available which lets you opt-in to have your camera roll automatically uploaded to the Google cloud. It’s similar to how the instant upload feature in the Google+ mobile app uploads photos and videos to a private album as you take them. They call it camera search and you can enable it in Goggles version 1.6 by checking Search from Camera in Menu > Settings.

Once up in the cloud, Google will auto-analyze your snaps and notify you when it recognizes something . For example, you may have taken a bunch of shots of historic buildings on your vacation. By allowing Goggles to upload your snaps, you can get search results for, say, recognized landmarks almost instantly. This lets you explore more information about the city, such as its history, and learn something new right on the spot. We like it a lot and if you’re fan of Goggles, update the app and give it a try.

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