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A View from Erica Naone

Google Extends Search Into the Page

A new Chrome extension helps users find related content—and more Google products.

  • August 18, 2011

Google has ideas about what you might want to see online—even when you’re not doing a search. It’s offering its suggestions through a service called Google Related, which works as an extension for the company’s Chrome Web browser or for the Google toolbar. The company explains:

Whenever you’re navigating to a new page, Google Related will look for interesting related content and, if available, display it in a bar at the bottom of your page. Google Related can display categories such as videos, news articles, maps, reviews, images, web sites and more. To preview a listed item or see additional items, just use your mouse to hover over different categories in the bar. For example, when you hover over a video link, the video pops up in a preview box and you can play the video directly on the page.

Early observers note that Google Related often directs users to Google products, such as Maps, Places, and News. SearchEngineLand writes:

The potential benefits for the searcher are saving time, effort, and being able to quickly see if they might have missed something from a source (or a Google property) they might have missed or did not know about.

For Google it means that users will spend more time using Google’s services. Of course, it would be possible to monetize the actual Google Related toolbar.

While the product brings out useful information a fair bit of the time, Ars Technica laments that it can’t be trained (at least not by users):

Links offered from the Related bar are +1-able, but if you click the “View More Articles” link from the story above, you get a get a long list of stories from various outlets that can’t be +1’d. This strikes us as a prime opportunity to teach Google Related which sources you trust or would like to see in your related news tab when you visit a news story. Still, true to Google form, Google is collecting statistics on the project, so we may be training it more than we know.

Using Google Related requires letting Google know what pages you’re visiting at all times, which is why it only works with omnipresent Google products such as the company’s browser. But it doesn’t seem to raise new privacy concerns. PC Magazine dived into the associated privacy policy, and concluded:

Data collected via Related is similar to how Google collects search information. “The Related extension operates by sending Google certain information about your machine and web sites at the time you visit them, including the URL of the web site, your machine’s IP address, and one or more Google cookies. This data is retained in Google’s server logs and maintained according to our general Privacy Policy,” Google said.

But users may still find Google’s suggestions invasive, suggests E-week:

When Google isn’t speeding up searches with its Instant predictive search technology, it finds other ways to cram more search results in front of users’ eyes. For example, Google late last year launched Instant Previews to show users a sneak peek of search results they might be interested in learning more about before they click on results. … Google.com was forged with a Spartan existence, but the company in the past year is finding more ways to crowd the user experience for profit. It will be interesting to see any pushback.

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