Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Google Adds Personal Gmail Results Into Search

In a major move to integrate personal search and Web search, Google is adding some users’ Gmail into their search results as a “limited field trial,” it said today.

So when participating users search for “Amazon,” information from their own recent purchase confirmation emails will appear on the right rail. Or, a user could type “my flights” as a search query, and see — directly at the top of their search results — itineraries drawn from their flight confirmation emails.

“This is a baby step in a really complicated area,” said Sagar Kamdar, director of product management for universal search, speaking at a search presentation for reporters at the company’s San Francisco office.

Kamdar noted that Google’s Gmail index is larger or the same size as its Web corpus. Plus, adding users’ personal email into search needs to be private and secure. “That is such a hard problem,” he said.

Users can opt in to the field trial at g.co/searchtrial today, and they should expect a wait of a couple days for activation, said Kamdar. They can then collapse Gmail results, and turn off personalization should they choose.

This kind of personal search is a category that’s been explored by start-ups including Greplin (now the personal assistant Cue) and CloudMagic, but Google obviously has broader reach than they do.

Google SVP Amit Singhal said that this personal email search feature wouldn’t necessarily be limited to Gmail. “We are very willing to work with every email provider,” he said — though, obviously, those email providers would need to sign on (which seems unlikely!) and figure out a way to securely transfer personal data.

Singhal and Kamdar said they expect to add other Google products — including Docs, Calendar and Drive — into each user’s search corpus, though they didn’t give a time frame.

Google also shared some general search stats at the event, which it doesn’t do often, and demoed a couple of additions to its semantic search efforts, as well as expanded voice search for mobile devices.

Google is now serving more than 100 billion searches per month, said Singhal. There are now more than 30 trillion unique URLs on the Web, versus one trillion in 2008, Singhal said. And Google crawls more than 20 billion pages on a typical day.

The future of search is artificial intelligence, Singhal contended. It’s like the “Star Trek” computer: “That perfect loyal assistant who’s there by my side whenever I need it.”

Google’s main effort on that front is its Knowledge Graph, which launched in May. Today, the Knowledge Graph contains half a billion objects, with 3.5 billion connections between them, according to Shashi Thakur, the project’s technical lead.

Google is today launching the Knowledge Graph outside the U.S., to all English-language users.

It’s also adding a “Knowledge Carousel,” a ribbon across the top of search results that allows users to flip through collections of entities suggested by the Knowledge Graph. This feature also works on tablets.

Google is also expanding its Siri-like voice-query functionality, which it launched for Jelly Bean at Google I/O last month. Voice search will be available for iPhone and iPad “within the next couple days” as part of the Google Search App. In coming versions, it will also be integrated with the new Gmail search.


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