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Google Toolbar Adds Keyword Browsing to Internet Explorer

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Google has added a keyword based browsing feature to its toolbar, allowing users to type words rather than URLs into the Internet Explorer address bar and automatically see the "most relevant" site for those terms.

By default, words typed into the Internet Explorer address bar trigger an MSN search, just as if the words were entered into an MSN search box. The new Google toolbar feature bypasses that functionality.

The feature is similar to, but not exactly like the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button on the Google home page, which skips search results and loads the number one search result for a query into your browser window. "It's a dynamic service that changes when the web changes," said John Piscitello, Google product manager. "I'm feeling lucky will always send you to the same result. Browse by name will only send you to the site it recognizes that the user wants to go to."

When there is more than one relevant website for a particular word or phrase, the user is presented with a list of Google search results to choose from.

The Browse By Name feature is only triggered when words are entered into the address bar. Typing a valid URL will still cause that page to be loaded, as requested.

When Browse By Name is enabled, words entered into the address bar will cause your cursor to briefly flash with an icon with three colored balls.

As the underlying web page is displayed, your search terms then appear in the Google Toolbar's search box.

Google will be automatically rolling out an update to existing Toolbar users over the next few days. If you've already configured the Google toolbar to be your default search engine for Internet Explorer, Browse by Name will be turned on automatically. If not, you'll need to turn the functionality on through the Toolbar options. The first time you use the system, a small popup window alerts you to the change.

To get the new version now, download the toolbar and reinstall it. Make sure that you check the box to "make Google my default search engine and enable Browse by Name in my Internet Explorer address bar."

To disable the Browse by Name functionality, simply uncheck its box on the Toolbar's Options menu.

The last major player to offer a feature to Google's Browse by Name was Real Names, which had a distribution partnership with Microsoft for a number of years. Prior to that, Real Names results appeared on AltaVista search result pages.

The premise was simple -- offer an alternative to the increasingly confusing domain name system that would make it easy for web users to find popular web sites without having to type complex URLs.

Real Names sold keywords that would resolve to specific URLs when typed into Internet Explorer. The company sold two types of words: "Basic Keywords" that fell below a certain traffic threshold, and Keywords Plus, terms considered extremely popular.

Real Names closed its doors after failing to renew its distribution partnership with Microsoft in 2002, after a contentious period of negotiation.

Unlike Real Names, Google has no plans to sell particular keywords, relying instead on its own algorithmic technology to determine the best matches between search terms and specific URLs.

Ironically, Internet Explorer has a similar functionality built in to it, but it's buried deep within the "advanced" tab of the browser's Internet Options. You can turn it on by selecting Tools > Internet Options > Advanced, then scroll about two-thirds of the way down the menu to the "Search from the Address Bar" section. Click the "Just go to the most likely site" radio button.

Google's Browse By Name is currently available in English and 12 international languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, German, Italian, Russian, and others.

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