Google’s Planet Scale Distributed Storage Patents

This past February, Google filed for a number of patents that describe aspects of how it might share information from one data center to another, and some of the challenges that entails. Google’s Yonatan Zunber, who revealed on his blog that over the past few months that he was the chief architect for Google’s social systems, including Google Plus, is one of the inventors listed on a number of the patents.

Just how are the nuts and bolts of Google’s data architecture pieced together, from its Web index to storing emails and photos, from user profiles and posts and responses in Google Plus to maps and photos and streetview images in Google Maps and Google Earth? Google has a number of data centers around the globe. How does the search giant efficiently move data from one data center to another? How does it back up the files and indexes that it uses? Where does all the user data go that Google collects when people search and browse the Web?

Google has shared some information about how they store and access data over the years in papers and articles like:

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How Google May Boost Search Rankings for Document Category Keywords

Can Document Category Keywords Boost Search Rankings?

Imagine that Google assigns categories to every webpage or website that it visits. You can see categories like those for sites in Google’s local search. Now imagine that Google has looked through how frequently certain keywords appear on the pages of those websites, how often those pages rank for certain query terms in search results, and user data associated with those pages.

One of my local supermarkets has a sushi bar, and they may even note that on their website, but the keyword phrase [sushi bar] is more often found upon and associated with documents associated with a category of “Japanese Restaurants” based upon how often that phrase tends to show up on Japanese Restaurant sites, and how frequently Japanese restaurant sites tend to show up in search results for that phrase.

Since Google can make a strong statistical association between the query [sushi bar] and documents that would fall into a category of “Japanese restaurants,” it’s possible that the search engine might boost pages that have been categorized as “Japanese restaurants” in search results on a search for [sushi bar]. My supermarket [sushi bar] page might not get the same boost.

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Google Acquires Facet Technology Mapping and Street Level Object Recognition Patents

Google’s not the only business that’s been driving around making videos of the streets of the United States. Facet Technology, which lists Bing as one of their technology partners, does something similar and offers navigation and location based services data and software. Back in 2009, Facet Technology and TomTom struck up a deal allowing TomTom to license Facet patented technology. It appears from a January/February 2010 report from topographic science Professor Gordon Petrie for Geoinformatics, that Facet Technology provided street level images for Microsoft in their initial demos for that service in 2006. (The Windows Live Local SUV pictured in that report looks similar to the image below from a Facet Technology patent.)

An image from a Facet Technology patent showing a vehicle with cameras in place to film streets, road signs, and traffic signals.

From the USPTO assignments database, it appears that Google has acquired Facet Technologies interest in the assigment of a number of their patents, which I’ve listed below. The execution data on the assignments is listed as June 21, 2011, and the assignments were recorded with the patent office on August 8, 2010. The USTPO database doesn’t provide any details behind the transaction such as costs or other considerations involved or licensing agreements that Facet Tech might have in place with other companies, or if Google acquired the company, its maps databases or just some of its intellectual property.

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Facebook’s Real Time Social Network Search Patent

Will Facebook someday launch their own search engine that enables you to search the Web? That question surfaces every so often, without any real definitive answers. It’s possible that they might someday, especially since they’ve been hiring a number of people with job experience from some of the major search engines.

The last few times I recall seeing the possibility of a Facebook search engine raised was when a couple of different Facebook patents originally acquired from Friendster were granted, and each described an aspect of how a search engine might use connections on a social network to influence results seen on a search of the Web. (For example, see this post: Facebook Patents “Curated Search” To Attack Google.) A different question, and one that is just as interesting is how the search on Facebook itself works. A patent application published at the USTPO today gives us some ideas of how it may work.

A screenshot of Facebook search results on the term [cincinnati reds] on a search of posts by everyone.

I have to confess that I’ve rarely searched at Facebook, and I don’t think that I’ve ever searched using anything other than the search box at the tops of pages. There is a Facebook search interface, as seen in the image above, that allows you to choose between the following to search for:

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How Google May Transform Your Search into Multiple Related Searches

Imagine that you want to find a pair of vintage Levi’s jeans for sale on the Web. You go to Google and enter the search terms [vintage clothes jeans]. Your expectation and mine might be that Google performs a search for all three terms, but what if instead it does a first search for [vintage clothes] and then a second search for [jeans] amongst the sites it receives from the first search. It might also include results from pages linked to or from the pages that show up in the top initial search results? Would Google perform multiple related searches like this?

Chances are that you would get a very different set of search results for each approach. And you wouldn’t even know that Google did two searches instead of one. (Though you may have suspected something really odd was happening if you owned a site that sold vintage Levi’s jeans and watched Google results carefully.)

A screenshot from the patent showing top results on a search for vintage clothes, with a search box appearing above the results allowing searchers to search more deeply through those top results.

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After Authorship Markup, Will Google Give Us Author Badges Too?

This past June, Google presented a way for us to use HTML to indicate that we are the authors of blog posts and online articles and other content on the Web. The details were introduced in Authorship markup and web search. I wrote more about it in Author Markup, and Patents, Oh My!

One of the benefits of using Authorship Markup is the possibility of Google search results showing your Google Profile image to the right of pages that you’ve used the markup on to indicate as being from you, along with a link to that profile. It’s possible that the Authorship markup might be the start of something bigger.

The image above is from a Google patent application published this week which describes a very similar approach to Google’s Authorship Markup, using rel=author markup as well as Author Badges which could be placed or linked to from author bylines or at the end of an article, or in a section of a page such as a comment on a blog or a post at a forum. Note the example URL at the bottom of the image, which includes a link to an Author Badge as well as a rel=”author”. It appears that the process described in this patent filing might enable you to sign into your Google Account, and attach your Google Badge to pages where you author content. This system would also allow others to use the badge to verify that you are the actual author.

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