September 23, 2002 5:28 AM PDT

Google search gets newsier

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Google unveiled on Monday an expanded test version of its search engine for current events and news, the latest step in the company's move into new markets.

The new Google News search tool replaces an earlier test version introduced in April. Although the new version is still in beta, it is being billed on the company?s home page as offering new features, such as a continuously updated index of news from 4,000 publications around the world. Previously, the site had searched 150 publications every hour.

The search tool brings the company's highly respected statistical methods for ranking the relevance of information on the Web to the specific category of news--an experimental approach compared with traditional methods of news selection, said Google product manager Marissa Mayer.

"From the reader perspective, this changes news reading habits because (usually) you pick a source and pick the story that interests you," said Mayer, who developed the tool with five staff engineers over the last nine months. "With this service, you pick the story that interests you and then pick the news source."

The news site combs regional and national papers in the U.S. and around the globe. Then it groups articles by topic and ranks top stories based on a combination of three things: freshness, the credibility of the source, and the number of sources publishing a story related to the news.

The site does not host the content, but instead links to the publications' pages.

The new tool joins a widening collection of services from Google, which soared to popularity due to its knack for pushing relevant sites to the top of its search listings. Now the company is seeking to build on its success to lay the groundwork for a widely expected initial public offering.

In recent months, for example, Google has sought to bolster its appeal with advertisers and licensing partners by auctioning placement next to search results. The company has syndicated the ad program worldwide. And last year, it began testing a search engine for catalogs of direct mail retailers such as Land's End. It has also developed a search application for corporations.

Google is not the first company to tackle news searches. Fast Search and Transfer started offering a periodical search tool last year at AlltheWeb.com, querying up to 800 news stories per minute from 3,000 publications, according to its Web site. Lesser known services from Rocketinfo and Newsseer.com provide barometers of current events too.

For now, Google does not plan to sell advertising pegged to news pages. But it may in the future when the company releases a full version of the service, which is yet undetermined. Mayer said the service is still highly experimental and needs to show success before advertising is added.

"This product is about innovation," she said. "This development isn?t about bringing all services to all people. This is about developing an interesting piece of technology."

 

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