Search, Ads & MORE >>

Published Date
01 - Oct - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Oct - 2005
 
Search, Ads & MORE >>
The Big G of the Internet is in the news again. Early last month it was Google Talk and a talk of a $4 billion (Rs 16,000 crore) public offering in the stock market-wow! Rumours have it that the money is to fund a lot of other projects that Google plans to undertake, such as free wireless Internet access across the US and elevators that shoot up into space!

Anyway, so Google is doing a lot more than just combing the Web for you. No, we aren't talking about Gmail and Google Talk or even Blogger out here. It's the 'More' that we are referring to. For the uninitiated, 'more' is the link that appears at the top right, above the Google search box.

This article will show you how you can make 'more' work for you. So the next time you feel like looking for that little bit extra on the Web, Google just might have it.

You've Got An Alert
The first app or 'service', as Google puts it, is Alert, and it does what it says. It alerts you if there is an update on the Web or in the news about a subject of your choice. So how do you get this alert? Simple, via e-mail.

You can also set alerts by clicking on the relevant link in your mail preference settings. As of today, Google offers to alert you about news or updates. This also extends to Google Groups, so if your topic is India, and some Google Group has a discussion on India, you get a message.

This is useful when you need to track changes on a daily or weekly basis, or if you'd rather have an alert in your inbox instead of subscribing to an entire newsletter. The frequency of the alert is a maximum of once a day. We'd like to see this alert feature integrated into Google Talk. But then we'd like a lot of features added to Google Talk!

Special searches for special needs, seems to be the credo that the search engine follows

Answer Me!!
Google Answers is one section that really got us interested. Google realised that people were willing to go through a lot of pain to get the answers they wanted. They hired a few hundred researchers who would comb the Net the entire day and collate and collect information. Please note that these are real people and not the bots that help Google turn out search results. So the aforementioned researchers sit around waiting for you to ask them questions. You also need to quote the price you are willing to pay for getting your question answered.



These researchers, who may or may not be experts in a particular field, will give you a detailed answer. The more complex the question, the more monies you need to put on the table. You obviously do not need to pay until you get the answer from the researcher. Your question is also put up in a forum where other people looking for answers can take a peek at it and give you some unwelcome gyaan.

The service seems ideal for students who are looking up for something detailed to type out in their projects. You, however, should keep in mind that your questions are not necessarily answered by experts.

Devil In The Details
Google is essentially a search engine, Talk and GMail notwithstanding. Their expertise in search is acknowledged the world over, so it's obvious that they come up with a number of customised search services. Most of these, though, work for you only if you're in the US, UK, and in some other parts of Western Europe.

Their online Catalog service throws up results from various mail order shopping catalogues. You could search for a specific topic, like a normal search, or you could look in the directory given below. The Catalog search covers areas like clothing, computers and food. As we mentioned earlier, it makes more sense for US citizens, as most of the shops or suppliers do not ship overseas. But, then again, we Indians always have a cousin in the US who can order stuff for us, right?

Google's Directory search is the granddaddy of all searches. Web sites in these searches are indexed and given a specific page rank. You can browse through categories ranging from arts to health and sport. Each category is further divided into topics, which in turn may have sub-topics.

Though a little irritating, this categorisation gives precise search results.

Froogle is Google's attempt to set up an online bargain store directory. Again a very region specific search, Froogle claims to be the smart way to shop around your neighbourhood. You can look for shops in a specific area offering very good bargains, if you have a foreign trip planned and shopping figures high on your 'To-Do' list. As of now, this service is not available for shops outside the US, but Google plans to expand it to various countries soon.

Google Local search is yet another region specific service. Using Local search, you can actually zero in onto a particular shop or business in a city. The search throws up a list of shops or business that offers the service you requested, along with telephone numbers and addresses. But what really takes the cake is the map that turns up at the side actually pinpointing where the concerned business is. Even though there's nothing about India, it can be fun-for example, you can direct online friends to Tony's Pizza Pit in Poughkeepsie, New York, the next time they're hungry.
For Those Special Times
Special searches for special needs seems to be the credo that the search engine follows. A plethora of special searches can be performed by Google and you do not need to know how to optimise your subject details. Google offers targeted searches for operating systems such as Linux, BSD, Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows.

You can use it to find the latest updates and packages for Linux! Google also offers a University search that lets you look for a specific University, mostly in the US, and also directs you to the College's home page. This could be useful to students in India looking to apply to colleges abroad. Use it to plan your college education and get necessary details such as admissions information, course schedules, or alumni news, all minus unwanted search results. 

Yet another US specific search is the US Government search. This service helps you snoop around all of Uncle Sam's government Web sites-including Federal as well as State Government sites. A search for Bechtel corporation threw up a few interesting results, including details of their involvement in India's Atomic programme.

Other search options, like Scholar search, bring up a number of research papers on the topic of your choice. This is extremely useful when you need to refer to such papers for work. You also get the contact information for the authors of these papers. Of course, most of these are copyright protected, so don't even think of copying anything from them.

In addition to this, you can also search for books online and browse through the text printed in them. The service allows you to browse through a book as you would in a book shop or a reference library. Books whose copyrights are in the public domain can be downloaded, the rest can only be viewed online and are not available for download.
Of course Google offers Web and Image Search as well, but we know about that already. Apart from this, you have Google Groups, which is the ideal way to search through the Usenet, which, as we know, is the largest of news and discussion board communities!

News, New Stuff & New Places
Google News works as a news aggregator. You can create a news alert for yourself by specifying the topics that interest you. This would keep you updated on all the new happenings from around the world.

Google culls these news articles from Web sites and newspapers from around the globe. They claim to have 4,500 sources for news. The service also has the news divided into a number of categories making it extremely simple for you to search for relevant articles.

You can of course configure your RSS feed reader to keep you updated with the latest stories from Google News. The latest feature added to the News site is the site customisation tool, using which, you can change the layout to suit your taste and save it. So, if Business or Technology news is your area of interest, you can make sure it appears right on top of the site when you visit it.

Another interesting part of Google is Google Labs. Employees at Google are encouraged to work on projects of their own, and if the company feels that a project is worth a shot then it funds the same. This is where the project enters the Google Lab. At present there are a number of innovative products under development at the Lab. A few "graduates" from the Google Lab have been Desktop Search, News Alerts and Local Search.

Google Maps is a product under development at the Google Labs. This is an effort to map the entire world down to the last mile. The online service is quite accurate and helpful when you need to plan a road trip. You get an option of viewing a satellite image, a normal road map or a hybrid of the two. The controls on the site help you zoom in and out of a particular area.

Though it doesn't provide much detail as far as India is concerned, Google claims that this will be rectified very soon. The service however works best if you have a fast internet connection or else be ready for a very long wait while your maps load.

Personally we preferred the satellite images to the road maps. For an American or British user, this service also offers driving directions. All one has to do is key in the query in the search box.

The Big Boys
Other than search tools, you have Google Tools to play around with. The most productive tool or service in terms of monetary benefit has been Google AdSense. This classifieds-like advertising tool lets a normal Internet user, who has a blog or a Web site, make a little bit of money by placing ads in them. Of course, there is no limit to the money you can make from this service.

The service is very simple to understand: all a user needs to do, is register his or her site/blog, customise the ad placement and copy the HTML code onto his or her Web page. You get paid every time a visitor to your site clicks on an advertisement. The payment differs on the type of ad and the uniqueness of the click. This ensures that you can't make money by continuously clicking on the ads pasted on your site.

This service has attracted many high traffic Web sites such as Indiatimes and Rediff. It speaks volumes about the financial benefits of the service.

GMail, with all its bells and whistles, is already nipping at Hotmail's and Yahoo's heels. The unlimited and ever growing storage capacity, the invites and added features, such as auto text completion, spell check, etc., have made it one of the most widely used mail services around-rumoured security threats notwithstanding.

Next is Code-Google's offering for the open source movement. With projects and APIs (application programming interfaces) open for collaborative work, Code aims to give the open source movement a platform to work on. Just when other Internet companies thought they could make some moolah by selling IMs and VoIP services, Google came up with Talk, which is the latest IM to hit the Internet. A simple, bare bones messenger, Talk also provides VoIP services. Though still in the Beta stage, the tool has recorded massive downloads within a month of its launch.

In addition, Google offers a desktop search application, which is a Google Labs "Graduate". The novel indexing technique used by this application has made sure that you don't have to wait too long for local search results to show up. The Google toolbar too, can be integrated to your browser. The toolbar functions exactly like the ones offered by MSN or Yahoo!.

Picasa, an online photo sharing application by Google, is quite handy if you are interested in putting up an online portfolio, or sharing photos of your vacation with family members across the globe. Google's translation tools let you translate text or entire Web pages. The combination of languages is impressive, but we believe there are better translation sites around on the Internet.

Blogger and Google Earth are two heavy duty tools offered by Google. While Blogger was bought over by Google after they acquired Pyra Labs, the company that created the blogging tool, Google Earth is a novel tool that lets you fly around a virtual globe that resides on your desktop.

An advanced version of Keyhole, Google Earth can be useful if you want to plan an expedition to any corner of the globe. It can also be used as a tool by pilots who want to simulate their flight plan and routes. Though the tool is a free download, Google also offers a professional version for $400. This comes with a GPS application integrated into it, among other features such as high resolution printing and customer support via e-mail.

The End
With the Internet becoming a very integral part of our lives it isn't surprising to see Internet companies venturing into every sphere possible. We already look to the Internet to answer all our queries. Increased online transactions, collaborative working and other such activities too have spurred companies such as Google into offering a wide range of services.

With innovation being the key to survival, it is only natural that Google's basket of tools and services grow. We will learn to enhance our productivity by choosing and making optimal use of these tools and services available. Now how do we optimise our tools? We'll tell you that, but some other time.



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