Google's new Wonder Wheel doesn't feel like a terribly new idea. I've seen these hub-and-spoke representations of search results before from search engine companies that are probably now dead. And they're probably dead because this way of presenting results alone is not all that useful. But integrated into Google's otherwise spot-on results makes Wonder Wheel a fun way of exploring a subject. When I clicked on wonder wheel while searching for that Casio camera, I got a wheel pointing to subjects like "Casio face detection," "Casio lithium-ion battery," "Casio NP 60," etc.
Timeline is a good way to get a feel for the buzz about the topic over time. For instance, I searched for the term "Muslim extremist" and got a good visual feel for the evolution of the term from 1970, when it was almost nonexistent, to its heyday in 2001 and 2002 right after the 9/11 attacks, to today when its use is somewhat on the wane. Not bad for a search that took less than a second.
Timeline and Wonder Wheel are both examples of Google not simply presenting links but analyzing information on the web, extracting it, and presenting it in a format that the search engine itself creates on-the-fly. Another and even more remarkable example of that is due to launch later this month: Google Squared.
With Google Squared, you'll search for a topic and Google will pull information from all over the web and present it in a table with rows and columns. In the example presented at Google's Searchology press event today, an engineer searched for "dog breeds." He got back a table with the name of the breed in the first column, a picture one of the dogs in the second column, and additional columns with information like average size, height etc.
He added a new row by asking for information about a different breed of dog. And he could add a new column by searching for information about the energy level of each breed.
Squared looks fascinating, but when it launches it'll be part of Google Labs, indicating that it may still need some work.
Finally, Google announced plans for something they called "rich snippets." These are similar to the information that Google is providing with forum results. For links to reviews, Google will provide a snapshot of the review, if the Web site participates by inserting certain information in their HTML.
For instance, a link to a review of a new phone would include information like how many stars the review gave it, the name of the reviewer, and when it was published. When you search for people, Google will attempt to give you information like where they live and their job title so you can figure out at a glance whether you found the person you're looking for.
The company says rich snippets will be rolling out gradually.