Category Archives: Search Engines and Directories

News and information about search engines and directories on the Web, including patent filings and white papers

Should Search Engines Refer Searchers to Other Search Engines?

Do you have a favorite search engine? Is there a particular reason why you use the search engine that you do?

Do you use more than one search engine regularly? Have you switched from using one search engine regularly to another one?

If you ran a search engine, you would probably want to understand why people shift from one search engine to another, either temporarily or permanently. And you might be interested in seeing if you can identify why and when these shifts take place, and a way to predict when such a changeover might happen.

Microsoft has been exploring why people switch search engines, and have filed for a patent on predicting when someone might switch from one search engine to another. It seems like an odd subject for a patent application, and they even tell us that one behavior might indicate such a switch might be when someone submits a query for “Google” in Microsoft’s Live Search.

The patent filing describes studies that Microsoft has conducted where they collected information about searchers switching to different search engines, and provides some details on how the ability to make such a prediction can be used by a search engine in a number of ways…

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Search on the Seas: Google Water-Based Data Center Patent Granted

Imagine a fleet of sea-worthy vessels being able to deliver computing needs to people without having to send information cross country, but rather anchored on the seas nearby.

Now consider data centers on those ships being powered by the waves and cooled by the waters.

Google was granted a patent on a water-based data center today:

Water-based data center
Invented by Jimmy Clidaras, David W. Stiver, and William Hamburgen
Assigned to Google
Granted: April 28, 2009
Filed February 26, 2007


A system includes a floating platform-mounted computer data center comprising a plurality of computing units, a sea-based electrical generator in electrical connection with the plurality of computing units, and one or more sea-water cooling units for providing cooling to the plurality of computing units.

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What if Google provided annotations for every link on the Web?

Imagine hovering over or right-clicking on links upon a page you’re browsing and seeing additional information about the pages behind those links.

A Google patent, originally filed in 2003, and granted this week, provides a way to see information about links for pages that you might be tempted to click upon before you actually click. Is this something that we might see from Google someday? Could it be the kind of thing that the Google Chrome browser might bring us?

Would you be interested in seeing some information about links on a page that you’re visiting before you click through those pages?

The kind of information that you might be shown could include:

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Is Game Playing the Future Ranking System for Search Results?

Many tasks are trivial for humans but continue to challenge even the most sophisticated computer programs. Traditional computational approaches to solving such problems focus on improving artificial intelligence algorithms. Here, we advocate a different approach: the constructive channeling of human brainpower through computer games. Toward this goal, we present general design principles for the development and evaluation of a class of games we call “games with a purpose,” or GWAPs, in which people, as a side effect of playing, perform tasks computers are unable to perform.

Designing Games With A Purpose

A paper from Yahoo researchers, Thumbs-Up: A Game for Playing to Rank Search Results, describes a game that they developed and tested internally at Yahoo to allow participants to compete against each other in ranking how relevant pages are for specific search queries.

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Google Gears Patent Application: Bringing Online Applications Offline

A patent application for Google Gears has recently been published at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Google released Google Gears in May of 2007, to enable offline use of online applications. Gears is a browser plugin aimed at enabling people to use web based applications even when they aren’t connected to the internet. Imagine being able to write or edit emails or review RSS feeds or use a word processing program that was written to be used on the Web and use those programs offline, when you can’t be connected to the internet.

The Google Gears plugin has been released as an open source project by Google, and can be used with Google applications such as Google Reader and with Google Docs. It can also be used with applications from non-Google sites, such as Zoho Writer and Remember the Milk. There is also a special version of Google Gears for Mobile Web use.

The Google Gears API pages provide details on how Google Gears can be used to by other applications to bring offline usage for online applications.

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Google Patents

Sometimes it helps to stand back and look at the bigger picture. Many of my posts are about Google patents, but I haven’t published a list of those patents.

I’ve located all of the granted Google patents that I could find that were either listed in the assignment database at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or noted in their granted patents database as assigned to Google. I haven’t included Google’s pending patent applications.

I’ll be updating this post as new Google patents are granted. – last updated February 5, 2011 – see: Google Patents, Updated

I also included granted patents for Exaflop, which seems, on the patent assignment documents, to share an address with Google at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, California 94043. Those are listed at the bottom of this post, and aren’t included in the following statistics.

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Do Search Engines Love Blogs? Microsoft Explores an Algorithm to Increase PageRank for Pages Linked to by Blogs

Last December I wrote a blog post titled Do Search Engines Hate Blogs? Microsoft Explores an Algorithm to Identify Blog Pages. The inventors behind the patent filing described in that post have come out with a new patent application that says some positive things about blogs. Looking back at the original post, it appears that they may not hate blogs at all.

In the new patent document, they ask if the rankings of web pages in search results would be improved by a providing a slight increase in the PageRank of pages linked to by blogs. They tell us that:

This idea is based on the assumption (or hope) that blogs are still mostly human-authored, and that links from blogs generally represent sincere endorsements on the part of the authors.

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How a Search Engine Might Add Related Information about People, Places, and Things into Search Results

You’re listening to a song on the radio, and you catch the title “Wonderwall,” but not the artist who performs it. You’d like to find out more about the song, and the performer.

You go to Yahoo, and type in the search query “wonderwall.”

Imagine that instead of just receiving a list of pages and other results that are strict keyword matches for the song, the results you received include detailed information about Oasis, the band behind the song, as well as band members Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher, Those results include pictures, videos, biographic information, and more, and come from pages that don’t even mention “wonderwall.”

In the search for “wonderwall,” the search engine noticed that the names “Oasis,” and “Liam Gallagher,” and “Noel Gallagher” all appeared frequently in the search results returned on that search. Because of that, the search engine expanded the search results to include profile information for those three frequently occuring names.

This kind of expansion of search results, to include names of people, places, events, and things found in a search for an original search query is described in a patent filing from Yahoo. While it doesn’t presently appear in use, it’s a possible approach from the search engine.

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