Does Google Search Need a Hit of Caffeine?

Google is at work upgrading its leading search engine program, and the company announced that it is opening up an online preview to let web developers give feedback on the nascent program. Not content to let Microsoft dominate search engine news with Bing's impressive consumer-focused additions and the big Yahoo search partnership, Google has unveiled a new search engine development program it is calling "Caffeine," which it hopes will make Google search even faster and more relevant and useful for users.


I'm not exactly sure why Google needs to be faster (those 0.2 seconds of search time don't really slow down my day) and it's unclear exactly how the engine will change. For now Google developers say that regular users won't be able to know the difference if they give Caffeine a taste. CEO Eric Schmidt says he's not too concerned about Bing's rising market share. Microsoft climbed from 8.2 percent in June to 9.4 percent in July, just as it announced its Yahoo deal, which will let Microsoft power Yahoo search and skim some of their advertisement revenue, in exchange for Yahoo taking over sales for premium advertisers.

If I could give Google one piece of advice for future search iteration, I would say: Don't be afraid to copy some parts of Bing! I've had a couple discussions (on and off-line) with James Fallows about the two programs, and we've come to the preliminary conclusion that while Google remains the faster, more relevant engine for searching news-related items and emerging issues and arguments in public policy, Bing is more consumer focused. It anticipates second-searches with suggested key words next to the results and it elegantly promotes pictures and specs of searched products. Google is still my default search (and I don't know that I'll ever hear myself say "Bing that for me"), but it could afford to offer a few additional features in the plentiful white space by the results.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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