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March 27, 2006

BC Weekend Update

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New interfaces and updated toolbars – it’s how the search engines spent their weekend.

Want to take a peek at the new, left-centric Google redesign? Google Blogoscoped tells you how. Follow these steps to grab yourself a look and then come back.

    1. Go to Google.com
    2. Copy and paste this URL into your browser window: javascript:alert(document.cookie=”PREF=ID=0TM=0:LM=0:S=0;path=/;domain=.google.com”)
    3. Ignore the error message and go back to Google.com and refresh
    4. Search and admire

Okay, I didn’t say the chances were drastic, but it does represent a change for the engine. The most obvious change is that Google seems to be switching its navigation center (complete with Page Rank-esque green relevancy bars) over to the left, making it resemble its Gmail infrastructure. Is the switch meant to highlight Google’s ever-expanding set of tools, or is it designed to reinforce the left-hand side as the prominent search space? Both I think, and Ars Technica’s Ken Fisher seems to agree, according to a recent blog post. Fisher hypothesizes the ‘redesign’ is meant to draw the user’s eye to Google’s tools, allow more search results to appear on the page, and to give Google more room to place more tools.

Either way, I don’t like it. The tools and bright green relevancy bars distract me from the organic search results, and the three columns of text make my page feel cluttered. And as Google creates more tools, it’s bound to get worse.

Also, highlighting Google’s tools makes people do silly things with them –like compile a wacky list of the current highest paying AdWords search terms. According to a post at CyberWyre, currently the top five include 3 queries related to mesothelioma — a word my spell check doesn’t even recognize, good thing I saw all those TV commercials as a kid –, queries on loans, mortgages, tax attorney’s and car accident lawyers. It’s worth noting that just because Mesothelioma has a high bid of $54.33, doesn’t mean that’s how much clients actually pay for the click. Depending on the click-through rate and other factors, a client could be paying only a few dollars for the term. But if the DOJ ever asks for these queries, I say give it to them. Talk about boring.

And because Google isn’t the only one who can update and improve features, the Yahoo Search Blog announced they have updated their Yahoo Toolbar. Yahoo boasts small improvements to bookmarks, mail alerts and others, but the most prominent improvement seems to be the addiction of a del.icio.us shortcut, which allows users to tag content straight from their browser. (By the way, I’m sure this addition has nothing to do with Yahoo’s recent acquisition of del.icio.us.) I think it’s great, if only because now I don’t have to contort my fingers while trying to spell ‘del.icio.us’. I’m serious, have you tried typing it? It’s ridiculous.

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