Today starting at 9:30am Californian time, Google is holding a press event in their Mountain View headquarters lasting until noon (another factory tour was held in 2005). Google announced they will give insights into search, with Google’s R.J. Pittman, Carter Maslan, Johanna Wright, and Marissa Mayer speaking. I’m live-blogging from the webcast.
Google Health launched
Google Health was put live early on, but only mentioned officially by Marissa later on during the talks. Last year, Marissa Mayer already suggested Google Health will be launched in early 2008. “If you look at health care, there’s already a huge user need, people are already using Google more than any other tool on the Web to find health information … And the health care industry generates a huge amount of information every year. It’s a natural core competency fo us, to understand how to organize all that data,” she told InformationWeek back then.
Exploring the list of health services you can link to your profile. Google writes, “When you link a website to your profile, you may authorize that website to read your Google Health profile or to automatically send and update information in your profile (such as medical records or prescription histories). You decide which permissions to grant when you sign up with each website.”
Google Health provides a kind of encyclopedia on health topics, listed in alphabetic order. You can add specific pages, like the one on headache, to your profile. Illustrations can be viewed in a zoomed version in a new window. Related news and groups are shown to the right.
The Google Health terms of service, which you need to agree to when you sign up, disclaim:
<<Google Health does not offer medical advice. Any content accessed through Google Health is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions, or adverse effects. This content should not be used during a medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other qualified health care provider if you have any questions about a medical condition, or before taking any drug, changing your diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment.>>
The Google Health sharing authorization agreement you need to agree to goes into privacy details, stating:
<<I hereby authorize Google to share the health information contained in my Google Health profile(s) in its entirety, to only those entities and individuals I designate, for the purpose of providing me with medical care and for the purpose of sharing my information with others that I choose.>>
Google continues to ask for your agreement for Google to pass on information about you to entities and individuals you define. As examples, Google lists sensitive information related to e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, mental illness, alcohol abuse, genetic diseases and more.
Google image search result ads coming
Image ads in Google image search results.
Google announced image ads in image search results are coming. In December 2005, Marissa Mayer told John Battelle that “with banner ads we are comfortable saying that they will not appear on the home page and that they will not appear on the result pages” but she specifically named Google image and video search results as a possible exception at the time.
They also speak about image comparison algorithms they’re experimenting with, and how they’re trying to better understand actual image content – like with their existing face recognition technology available via the advanced image search options. Google also says that while Google Labs was pretty quiet recently, it will see new stuff added to it this year.
Search quality is a lot about understanding user intent
“Here’s what I said… now show me what I want”
Google gives impressions from the search quality team. Even when they sometimes may disagree, they all serve one master, Google says; the millions of users. Diversity is important here, and Google offers special oneboxes as part of their “universal search” approach.
Google’s Pandu Nayak gives examples of how it’s easy for humans but tough for computers to understand human intent behind search queries due to ambiguities. What does the “dr” in “dr zhivago” mean, for instance? Easy – it means “Doctor.” But in another search query, it could very well mean “drive” … or “Dominican Republic.” To be useful, search results should take these ambuigities into account and resolve them smartly.
Marissa Mayer later adds that knowing more about the user offers more possibilities for Google to improve search in the future, as it becomes more personalized. “We’re just getting started.” Marissa introduces Google Health now with the words, “It is open to the public.”
[This post is being edited throughout the event. Thanks all who help in the comments!]
[Advertisement] Google books at eBay: background info on Google, AdWords, AdSense, Blogger and more…