an announcement on the Official Google Blog, the search engine giant is rolling out a new format for their universal image results. Set to go live over the next 24 hours, the updated format will now feature one larger image alongside multiple smaller images. Because of this new layout, you'll be able to see "more pictures than before," writes Google Software Engineer Alex Petcherski in the blog post.According to
The New Image Results
To be clear, this update is for universal image results only - not Google Image search itself. "Universal" results refer to the search results you receive when doing a traditional search on www.google.com. Introduced back in 2007, the term refers to the combined search results from multiple verticals, including image search, news, video search, and the other specialized engines linked from the top of Google's homepage. With universal search, you only have to refer to one set search results page to see all the relevant information on a particular topic. The page serves as the jumping off point for whatever knowledge you're after - whether that's a photo, a video, the latest news, or just good ol' fashioned information.
The updated image search results represent a minor change to Google's interface and one that many mainstream users may not have even noticed. But every little tweak that Google makes is only done after extensive testing. In this case, the update allows for one more image to appear in the universal image results box. One image may not seem like a major improvement, but it could mean the difference between a user clicking through to see more or abandoning their Google Search altogether. (You would be surprised how quickly some users give up on a non-productive search. Forget refining queries, they just go elsewhere or stop their search entirely!).
Google Announcement's Timing Aimed to Deflate Interest in Bing
It's also notable that Google is announcing this change around the same time as Microsoft plans to make another announcement regarding updated features for Bing, the company's new search engine. Since its launch earlier this year, the Bing Search Team at Microsoft has been busy rolling out updates that have included things like a revamped mobile search, improvements to maps, integration with math engine Wolfram Alpha, Twitter integration, and a new visual search interface. As most of these announcements were made, Google would make an announcement of their own - for example, how they were planning on adding Twitter to their results, too. And when Bing announced Visual Search, Google posted to their blog about a Google Experiment called "Fast Flip" which lets you visually peruse print articles online.
There's no doubt that the timing of this latest, albeit minor, news about Image Search improvements has to do at least partially with the upcoming Bing announcement. Clearly, we have entered a new era of "search wars." As angel investor Ron Conway noted earlier this fall at the TC50 conference, this time war is a good thing: "I think the huge winner here will be consumers because competition breeds innovation, and this nice little battle between Google and Microsoft is fantastic for consumers."
Disclosure: Sarah Perez also freelances for Microsoft's Channel 10. She is not a Microsoft employee.