Sunday, January 08, 2006

Google feature list

Here's a list I've just gone through of everything I could find out that Google runs right now. That is, their additional services other than the regular search engine. It's incredible how much stuff they've actually got here.

These features are full web applications deserving of their own website - and usually have their own (sub)domain. Despite many of them being labelled as 'beta' releases, they are widely used and generally very stable.
Google SearchIt seems obvious, but I'm putting it here anyway. Google's main search engine, one of the most popular in the world, uses their PageRank technology to ensure the accuracy and integrity of search results, and the AdSense program to turn a profit from the service by allowing businesses to place "sponsored links" which appear (separate to normal results) in searches featuring given keywords. Google has also localized their search engine into a number of other languages.
Google Image SearchGoogle's image searching feature. This is quite an old one and known by most people, it searches both in the filename of the image and in the text surrounding the image, should it be embedded in or linked from an HTML page.
Google VideoThis is relatively new. Google has written their own Flash-based video player and you can use Google Search to search the catalogue of videos, and view them right in your browser. (You used to have to download an external application to view the videos, which was based on VLC.) At the moment, the "pay to view TV episodes" aspect hasn't yet been released, but you can use it to view a number of other web videos - most of them being "funny" or "cool" videos and Internet fads. I don't know how, but Video re-encodes all the videos to a reasonable quality which makes them fast to load. Pretty much all of the videos are available in higher quality from their original source, but this is definitely a good starting point to see if you like a videocast, for example.
Google AnswersA service where Google-qualified "Researchers" - web searching experts - will answer users' questions for a fee. Also one of Google's very old services, but not very well-known. After your question has been answered, the answer is fully viewable by the public for free.
Google Book SearchThis used to be called Google Print. Allows you to search the full text of books and read a limited number of sample pages, as well as providing a link to a place where the book can be purchased.
Google LabsThis is the page that most of Google's "beta" features are listed on while they are still under construction. Completed features integrated into the main search engine are listed here.
Google Web AcceleratorA plugin for Internet Explorer or Firefox that uses precaching and other techniques in order to "accelerate" browsing. It gives you an indicator of the "total time saved".
Google SuggestAutomatically suggests the search query you're typing in based on what ranks highest beginning with the letters you've typed so far using JavaScript. Has some basic censoring on it.
Google Personalized HomepageThis is sort of like a "web portal" that you can use as your homepage, where you can customize what appears on it in addition to the regular Google search. "Modules" that can be embedded include Gmail messages, news from several major outlets or an RSS feed and "quote of the day" and "word of the day".
Google MailOriginally known as Gmail, this is Google's email service. It's an AJAX-based webmail system with 2.6GB of storage at the moment - storage is continually increasing (see the Gmail homepage). A sidenote for Gmail users: you can use this link after logging in to force the "basic HTML" view instead of the advanced AJAX version of Gmail if you wish.
Google Maps/LocalGives you maps for all of the US and a large part of the UK, as well as satellite imagery for pretty much the whole world in decent detail. Google Local gives you directions to and from certain points, and allows you to find street addresses and phone numbers for local businessese if you're searching in a supported area.
Google DesktopA sidebar for Windows keeping convenient information in one place. Supports a number of interesting features (including Desktop Search, another Google app) and extensions, allowing anyone to write a module for it.
Google AlertsEmails you on a daily, weekly or realtime basis with updates to specific searches (for example, entering "George W. Bush" and selecting "News" will email you whenever a new story about GWB pops up on Google News).
Google DeskbarA Windows toolbar that you can stick on your taskbar. Features a plugin architecture.
Google GroupsGoogle's version of Usenet. It doesn't carry binaries, and is oriented towards the original point of Usenet (ie. discussion). Features a number of things introduced in Gmail including "starred" topics, and tracks a list of the most recent groups used. Also has a great interface for creating your own group. I send email updates of my blog using a Google Group - users subscribe using the link on the right. I'm the only one authorized to post to this group, so I post whenever I update, and subscribers receive an email alert.
Google ToolbarAvailable for IE and Firefox - and the page updates automatically with the correct version based on the browser you use to access it - this is pretty much the original Google tool. Features a search bar, PageRank info, Blogger links, find-in-page search and a whole lot more.
Google Blog SearchA search engine that indexes only blogs. However, Google's definition of a blog is somewhat inaccurate. Blogs are defined to the search engine as content syndicated using RSS or Atom.
FroogleGoogle's shopping search engine. Searches online prices for any item and allows you to search them by a number of criteria. (The name is a pun on "frugal".)
Google NewsAutomatically creates a customizable "front page" based on the most popular stories from "over 4,000 news sources" with links to original sources. Also provides access to a fully-searchable archive of news links that goes back about 2 months.
Google TalkA basic IM client running on the Jabber network. Its main features are the Gmail integration and voice support.
These features are complete and stable, but are merely included as "add-ons" to the main Google Search service.
Google ScholarSearches peer-reviewed journals, et cetera.
Google DefinitionsJust type "define" into your search query, and Google will return a definition of the following term as the top result for you. Usually.
Google MoviesGives you movie showtimes in the US, and movie reviews, based on the movie name or keyword.
Google SnippetsThis is just my name for a feature in Google that will cause it to return an answer at the top of the search results to certain common questions. This information is not hand-picked, and it's difficult to predict what works, but typically "how old is " and some other set phrases tend to work well.
Google CalculatorPerforms calculations and conversions. For example, currency conversions such as this or this, unit conversions like this, this or this.
Language ToolsAllows you to translate a block of text or webpage between various languages, as well as perform language and country-specific searches. Similar to Babelfish. According to the Wikipedia article, Google is working on a method of machine translation to supplement this using statistical analysis using UN documents (which must be translated into a number of languages).
Google DirectorySimilar to the way Yahoo works (or worked for a while), Google Directory organizes websites into categories and allows you to browse from there. Useful if you don't know where to start keyword-wise.
Special SearchesA bit of a relic really, but allows you to make a search confined toa few select categories, such as Windows, BSD, US Government or University. Not particularly useful with tools like the site: operator.
These features are likely to become fully-functional at some stage in the future, but at the moment have too little functionality, cover too little area, or are too unstable to be counted among the above features.
Google TransitA trip planner using public transport, similar to services offered by most local public transport authorities, for example Transperth's Journey Planner. At the moment, it only has data for Portland.
Google Ride FinderSimilar to Google Transit, except watched taxis, shuttles etc. too, and they're updated in real-time. It also supports several US cities.
Google ReaderA DHTML-based RSS aggregator.
Google Personalized SearchThis tracks your search history when you are logged in in order to provide you with better, "personalized" results. A bit creepy if you ask me.
Google CatalogsA repository of scanned-in print catalog/catalogues, searchable using OCR.
Google BaseEssentially a user-created database of content that will eventually show up in regular Google searches, too (which is presumably the big attraction). However, as it is currently in beta, Base content is not dumped directly into regular Google web crawls yet. Rather than me try to explain it (since I don't use it myself), it's better to look at the Wikipedia article since that has some info on it which will hopefully expand over time.
Google MobileA "lite" version of Google designed for mobile phones. Following the link on a PC will take you to Google's page with info about it. It is possible to get "mobile" versions of Google in XHTML (also accessible via a regular web browser) and WML, and there is even an iMode version. These pages also allow you to search the "mobile web", a feature currently in beta that searches only pages designed for mobile devices.
Google SMSA subset of Google Mobile that allows you to perform queries by sending an SMS to Google. Includes Google Local and phone book information as demonstrated by the main page.
Google PackThis new "feature" bundles a bunch of web "essentials" in the one download. Currently, it only supports Windows XP. It's still in beta, and Google's accepting sugggestions for things to have added to the Pack. It's fully customizable - you can add and remove programs as you see fit. Includes the Google Updater - a brilliant tool that keeps track of all the software supported by the Pack - regardless of whether the Pack installed it - and keeps it up to date. Google claims that it neither gives nor receives money for including these packages. Interestingly, it includes a special edition of Norton Anti-Virus with a free six-month subscription.
These features are not as useful as others mentioned here, and are usually released as a joke or "proof of concept".
Google SetsYou type in a number of related items, and it creates a "set" of other items that are related. For example, typing in "Clerks" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" turns up other Kevin Smith films.
Google XThis feature was released by Google, then abandoned after a day, probably due to legal concerns. It's basically a ripoff of Apple's OS X "dashbar", providing access to a number of Google searches from the one place with some funky DHTML animation. The site linked above, as far as I can tell, is the same as the original Google X, though it contains a "Hosted by" advertisement. An "enhanced" version is also available from the same site.
Google MoonA Google Maps spinoff with satellite imagery of part of the Moon. When you zoom in far enough, the image is replaced with cheese. Yes, I spoiled the joke. Sorry.
These features are or are based on software written by other companies that have since been acquired by Google.
Google EarthBought from Keyhole, this software provides an interactive 3D globe model, allowing you to zoom into street-level satellite imagery in many places. Features placemarking, GPS device support (in the "pro" version), overlays, and Google-supplied layers including city info like locations of schools, ATMs, hotels, et cetera, road maps for many areas, 3D models of significant buildings in some parts of the US and 3D terrain info for most of the world. Also features "fly-bys" where the software "jumps" from one place to another, which can be automated in areas that support generation of driving directions and from which movies can be generated (with the "pro" version).
Google AnalyticsBased on software created by Urchin, this is a full-featured analytics program that Google was offering for free. It's similar to Web Side Story. Analytics is no longer open to the public due to high demand for the service. Luckily I was one of the ~300 000 who got in before they closed signups, however, Google has indicated that signups will eventually be reopened.
BloggerAcquired by Google but not rebranded, this is Google's blogging service. I'm using it right now.

A similar list of Google features is available on Wikipedia, though mine is at this stage more extensive.

Got any suggestions for additions to this list, or have a problem with one of the entries? Add a comment and I'll make the changes if I agree with you.


Ben said...

hey scott, nice entry (y) noticed a few mistakes:
the first Google Video link goes to your blog
the second Google Video section seems to be same as first
might be worth adding that Opera and FF have built in Google search?
the Gmail homepage seems to be going up a bit more than 250b/s
last Google Calculator link is missing

Meh, mistakes are gunna happen on a blog entry that long. I like the way you set it out though :)

splintax said...

thanks heaps for pointing those out, they have all been fixed except...

- the opera and FF thing, it's a simple thing to do and not really a Google feature IMO, since it's just a matter of filling in %s for you can even change that, but I suppose it is significant that it's in both clients.. just not Google-significant. :P
- the gmail thing, I measured an increase of .000053 MB over 15 seconds, that's only about 3.5 b/s... hmm, maybe I will just remove the estimate, since I'm pretty sure the javascript thing is just there for effect, and it seems to change randomly - I think they only update the real size limit every MB or so.

xcloser2godx said...

So, do you like google splintax? Very nice list by the way and well composed.

splintax said...

why thankyou :-)