Google has been busy over the past couple of years acquiring a good number of small startups, including some that may help or have helped contribute features to Google Plus, such as Fridge, Tweet counting SocialGrapple, people sorting Katango, the team behind JustSpotted, social ranking PostRank, and social movie recommendation service fflick.
Google hasn’t publicly announced every acquisition that it has made, and the search engine has also purchased intellectual property such as pending and granted patents from some companies as well, without necessarily buying the companies behind the patents. For example, in August of 2010, Google was assigned a handful of patent filings from Appmail, LLC, recorded at the USPTO in May of 2011. A pending and a granted patent from that group appear to be related to Grouptivity, which was a social service run by Appmail that used a social mail service to enable people to share content they found on the web with others, either privately or publicly. That service allowed for the creation of groups to “keep your personal contacts separate from co-workers and other categories.” As a publisher-centric web service, grouptivity was described as a service that:
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) assignment database, Google has acquired the pending patent applications of one time search rival Cuil, touted when launched as a potential Google Killer.
On July 28, 2008, the search engine Cuil went live with hopes from many that it would rival Google in technological know-how and create some competition for the search engine. Those hopes were fueled in part by the fact that search engine was started by former Google employees Anna Patterson and Russell Power, a co-founder from IBM, Tom Costello, and they were also joined by Altavista founder and ex-googler Louis Monier as well. The company received a fair amount of funding before it launched, likely in-part due to the past employment history of its founders.
When Cuil launched, it supposedly had within its index more that three times as many Web pages as Google, and ten times as many as Microsoft. It promised not to retain information about searchers past search histories or surfing patterns as a way of distinguishing itself from Google. Bloomberg News called it one of the most successful start ups of 2008, and there were some real high hopes that the new search engine would rival Google.
Things seemed to start going south for Cuil shortly after launch. After a month, Louis Monier left the company after disagreements with CEO Tom Costello. Search results were presented in a 2 column format rather than a single column, and were accompanied by thumbnail images. I noticed at the time, a few complaints about the two column format, and in my personal experience using the site, the thumbnails presented often weren’t very good choices, and not representative of the pages or topics being returned in search results. The Cuil website shut down in September of 2010, with news of a mysterious acquisition falling through surfacing a week later.
At Hewlett-Packard’s global partner summit in Las Vegas yesterday, President and CEO Meg Whitman gave a keynote presentation on the state of the company and made a prediction about Google’s Android operating system:
We decided to contribute WebOS to the open source community and this will take three to four years to play out,” said Whitman. “I think there is room for another operating system. iOS is great but it is a closed system. I think that Android may end up as a closed system because of [Google’s] relationship with Motorola.
Interesting timing on a statement like that, as I noticed the appearance yesterday afternoon of the assignment of 97 patents from HP to Google in the USPTO’s patent assignment database. Then again, the assignment is listed at having been executed on 10/25/2011, and not recorded until 02/06/2012. The patents cover a wide range of technologies, including at least one search related patent on Dynamic query expansion, that Hewlett-Packard acquired at some point from Digital Equipment Corporation’s search engine AltaVista, with search pioneer Louis Monier listed as a co-inventor.
There are also a couple of patents involving Java, as well as a number involving computer architecture and distributed networking, multi-thread processing and operating systems, telecommunications and video, software and hardware monitoring, amongst others. There’s also one on auxiliary propane fuel tanks for vehicles (driver less cars?), and another on paper making.
Google was granted a patent yesterday on Blog Search, and how the search engine might filter blog posts out of blog search based upon a number of factors. The patent was originally filed in 2006, and it’s the first patent filing I’ve seen from Google that uses the term “splog.” The screenshot from the patent below shows some of that potential filtering process
According to Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig, if you look at Google Trends for trends related to “full moon” or “ice cream”, you’ll see that Google searches for those terms imitate actual physical trends in the world. With a very large number of queries performed for those terms, searches for “full moon” peak every 28 days. Searches for “ice cream” peak every summer, 365 days apart. Large amounts of data make interesting things possible.
If you’re interested in how search engines work, and how large amounts of data can help them do what they do more effectively, it’s highly recommended that you read the paper The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data (pdf), written by Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira, from Google. Even more highly recommended is a presentation from Peter Norvig of the same name from a Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of British Columbia last fall, which sadly has less than a 1,000 views at YouTube presently:
In the early days of Google, when you performed a search, the results you received were just links to pages found on the Web, showing page titles, snippets, and URLs. Google started adding other types of searches to its Web search, such as:
While these launched as separate search repositories, they weren’t going to stay that way, and may never have been planned as solely being standalone data repositories. In 2007, Google introduced Universal Search. At a Google presentation called Searchology in May of 2007, Google announced Universal Search, which included video, news, books, image and local results incorporated into Web search results. According to the Official Google Blog post, the roots of Universal Search can be traced back to 2001, with a lot of effort leading to its launch:
Over several years, with the help of more than 100 people, we’ve built the infrastructure, search algorithms, and presentation mechanisms to provide what we see as just the first step in the evolution toward universal search. Today, we’re making that first step available on google.com by launching the new architecture and using it to blend content from Images, Maps, Books, Video, and News into our web results.
A few days ago, I asked the question, Is Google Aiming at Building Faster Networks and Data Transmissions? Google had acquired some interesting patent applications that have the potential to increase the speed and quality of data transmissions. An even more recent intellectual property acquisition by Google points to a growing interest in networking technology.
Google is planning on bringing ultra high speed broadband access to Kansas City, with fiber optic cable connections between homes that Google promised will deliver 1 gigabyte-per-second speeds, or a speed that’s “20,000 times faster than dial-up and more than 100 times faster than a typical broadband connection!.” That’s pretty fast. According to the Official Google Blog post, Google may be in talks with other cities to bring them this kind of high speed internet access as well.
How much might one page on a website influence the rankings of other pages? When I joined an agency in 2005, our focus was on rankings for individual pages – optimizing their content for specific terms and phrases, and making sure that they had links from other pages, both onsite and off. I found myself unable to color just within those lines. It was impossible to ignore the impact of global issues on a website when trying optimize individual pages for terms. Every page on a site has the ability to impact how each page might be crawled and indexed and displayed by search engines.
For example, if the home page of a site was accessible at multiple URLs, there was the very real risk that PageRank for that page could be split multiple ways, such as amongst: