Google Co-Op

May 12, 2006

Google seems to hard at work improving and innovating in their core proficiency: search. Google Co-op looks like two separate things. The first is subscribed links which is appears to be very similar to Fact200's sources and in general allows Google to become an aggregator of search results beyond Google's own index. The second is 'Topics' which appear like their attempt at a del.icio.us-like community based (err, sorry, "Web 2.0" for the trendy folk) form of editorializing.

Subscribed Links looks like a very simple method that any web site operator can get their results shown in Google's search. There is a catch though: People have to subscribe to your links. There's also some coding involved to adhere to the subscribed links xml format but this should be trivial and there's probably going to be open source support (in various blog and forums software) for it soon. What's a little odd to me is that subscribed links appear in the same spot premium sponsored links would show up. They essentially look like ads. I think this might be an attempt to re-sensitize users to their ads and boost ad value. But it also seems like this limits users to only one or very few subscribed links because it'll probably get jumbled really fast and also push the organic results way down the page. Actually, that's another factor in their implementation: response speed.

Google's own index is lightening fast. However, most other content providers don't have quite the clustering power of Google's search engine and thus the subscribed links will either slow down the response of your query (making Google seems slower than it should be) or timeout in which case the subscribed link won't show. Actually, I haven't seen it in action and it might be the case that they use AJAX to fill in the subscribed link section as soon as the external feed responds, but this might cause an unexpected and awkward (depending on how big the subscribed links are) shift in your search results.

Topics is interesting but rather…dare I say, confusing? At first, I thought it might be a lot like del.icio.us's tagging which is pretty simple. But after digging a little deeper, it appears somewhat similar to Fact200's categories and sources.

The way I think it works: 

You 'label' or 'annotate' URLs (Either I misunderstand this or Google needs to consolidate their nomenclature). This is pretty similar to 'tagging' at the basic level, but they support some advanced tagging features like attaching a relevancy score and wildcard url expressions.

Next, you create a 'context' file which contains facets, labels, and triggers. 'Triggers' are how Google knows to apply the particular context/topic. Facets are the subcategories Google presents when it detects you're in a particular topic and labels are connected to the facets which help narrow your search.

 The end result is a system very similar to Fact200's where there are logical groupings (Topics/contexts in Co-op, Categories in Fact200) that offer ways of narrowing down search results. Creating them is meant for the die hard nerds and geeks who can decipher the esoteric system (I'll admit this currently applies to Fact200 as well). They in turn, share them with their not-as-sophisticated friends who say "Golly gee, you are so smrt!"

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