Google Squared Struggles To Make Search More Helpful

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The first thing I learned from Google Squared is that I don't exist. The second, that Secobarbital is really a type of fish, not a sedative drug, as I've long understood it to be. Thirdly, I learned how hard it can be to communicate to users the best use for a new search technology. Especially when it's not ready for prime time.

What Google Squared, which the company has just placed into live beta, does best is present a list of facts, product names, tropical fish, and other grade school stuff.

Need a list of French Presidents? Google Squared will create a table--that's where the "squared" comes from--showing names, pictures, date of birth, preceded by, and succeeded by. Just don't ask it when each French President served: Google Squared doesn't know.

The Secobarbital reference was presented along with a picture and description of the Tiger Barb, a popular aquarium fish. The other columns presented included the Family and Class the fishes belong to. While Google Squared will show a confidence level for its finding--in this case "low"--the user must look for it.

As for "david coursey," Google Squared returned a list of ten people, a default number, none of whom were even named David.

Google Squared, isn't as perplexing as Wolfram Alpha, the new "computational knowledge engine" which has convinced at least one early user that it's smarter than he is. But, Google Squared is more a curiosity at this point than a useful search adjunct.

Clearly, we need new ways to present search results and Google Squared's table view is that. But, it is also a lesson in how far we have to go before search engines can do more of the thinking for us.

Google says Squared is an experiment at this point and (obviously) isn't perfect. While I won't be it for serious searches today, users recognize a need for better search results.

David Coursey really exists, at least on regular Google. Write him using the form at He tweets as dcoursey.

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