August 22, 2007 2:29 PM PDT
Google's Mayer talks iPhone, Facebook
During her keynote Wednesday at the Search Engine Strategies Conference here, Mayer demonstrated Google Maps on her iPhone and said iPhone users could also use Google's free voice-activated yellow pages service, Goog 411. "You can say 'map it' and it sends you an SMS message with a link to the map," she said.
Then she demonstrated a search for "pizza" in San Jose on Google Maps on her iPhone, elegantly flicking her thumb and middle finger to navigate the map on the touch screen.
During her keynote she also talked about the parallels between Google's Gadgets and iGoogle, and Facebook, which she said is her favorite non-Google product.
"There is a similar vein between both programs in that they are open platforms," and thus get broader distribution, she said. "Anyone can create a Gadget or create a Facebook app." She said such applications are a "new form of advertising that's free."
"On my iGoogle home page I have a Netflix queue," she said. "Normally I would go to Netflix once a month. Now Netflix is part of my home page every time I open up my browser."
In addition to the application structure, Mayer likes the way Facebook collects information about relationships between people, including when they met and how they know each other. "The type of information they're building about the social graph between people is something that is intelligent and will be particularly useful in the future," she said.
For general Web search, personalization is the future, Mayer said. Ten to 15 years from now search sites will understand more about searchers, where they are located and what their personal preferences are, she predicted.
Mayer said one of the most important data points for improving search relevance based on personalization is the previous query, although Web history and address books could also be helpful "signals" to the search engine.
To avert the problem of inappropriate personalized results--like the Amazon.com suggestions based on one abnormal purchase--Google searchers can see their search history and remove particular searches to tweak the personalization, Mayer said. Google is considering indicating to the searcher when the results are personalized or offering a way to toggle between personalized and default results, she said.
It is important that the ads are personalized too, she said. The company is looking at changing the presentation of its Universal Search page "to guide users' eyes" so they can see the results and the advertisements, she said. "My philosophy is that the ads and the search results should match."
And when it comes to targeting, Mayer added, "For me, search and ads are almost the same."
In the future, Google may incorporate blog search, scholar and other types of searches into its Universal Search results page, which today weaves together results from news, video, maps and image search. "This is a pretty straightforward first attempt, and we're looking at things that are much more radical," she said.
Mayer also discussed the usefulness of Google Street View in maps, saying that it helps to know what buildings and landmarks look like. "A couple of weeks ago in San Francisco it was raining and I was in a cab, and it was nice to know I was heading for the restaurant with the yellow awning," she said.
Meanwhile, mobile is taking off. This year was the first that Google noticed an increase in the use of Google mobile applications during the summer instead of a dip, she said. Usually Web searches drop during the summer months as people go on vacation or spend more time outside in the nice weather. "You could see people almost switching off their computers and switching on their handhelds," she said.
Usage of Google mobile apps rose 10 percent each week for the first three weeks in June and saw a 40 percent to 50 percent spike almost overnight after the iPhone was launched, Mayer said in comments after the keynote.
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