Google has added a new feature to filter adult content out of its listings, and the search engine now also provides links to online maps in response to relevant queries.
"SafeSearch" is meant to prevent sites with pornography or adult content from appearing in Google's listings. To use it, do a search, then select the SafeSearch link that appears on the top of the results page. Any future searches will then be filtered.
Unfortunately, there is currently no way to switch filtering on from the Google home page, which means you cannot block adult content on your initial search. For this reason, you may wish to search on something you absolutely expect to produce clean results, then enable the filter for your subsequent searches.
It's likely that this oversight will be changed in the future. In particular, Google says that the ability to remember your filtering preference may be added to the current page that allows you to set language preferences, making it more of a general settings page for the search engine.
Like other crawler-based search engines that offer filtering, Google is using a combination of blocking known adult content sites and also analyzing web pages for patterns of words identifying them as adult content. The block list comes from SurfWatch, and Google also analyzes the Open Directory's listings to identify adult web sites.
Another new feature are the map links that Google began suggesting in May. Google now watches for any query that looks like it contains an address. If so, links to Yahoo Maps or MapBlast will appear at the top of Google's results. The address is embedded inside these map links, so that if you click on one, your address is passed on to the mapping service. As a result, you should get a map to that location you searched for. Map links are especially likely to occur if you use the name of a major city, US state or US zip code.
In other Google news, I wrote last month that the service was beta testing new language search options. Those have officially gone live now -- see the article below for more information about language search. I also wrote about Google's new support for those with WAP browsers. I since discovered a pleasant surprise. Google not only translates the original page that you select from its search results from HTML into a WAP format, but if you select a link from that page, Google continues to translate as you make your way through the web. Because of this, there's every reason for those using WAP browsers to consider making Google a first stop.
Of course, despite Google's impressive HTML to WAP conversion, there may still be times when you'd prefer to find WML pages specifically written for wireless devices, as can be done using FAST's WAP search engine. This may come to Google in the future, according to Google president Sergey Brin. Google has recently completed a crawl of WML pages, and it may integrate these into its main index and ensure that they rank more highly in response to searches from those using wireless browsers, Brin said.
Finally, a sharp-eyed reader noticed that Google was measuring clickthrough on its results, similar to how Direct Hit and some other services have done. Brin says only about one percent of its search results are measured, and it's done purely in order to measure the impact of any general changes to the service, such as how search results are presented, rather than as a mechanism to influence how pages are ranked.
Google Speaks Languages, WAP, Adds Other Features
The Search Engine Report, May 3, 2000
More about Google's language search, WAP search and university search features.
Google Add My Campus
Google is now accepting suggestions for universities and colleges to add to its list of university searches. Nominate your school via this page.
2000 Webby Awards: Technical Achievement
Google won at the recent Webby Awards for Best Technical Achievement
Google takes search acc't to San Francisco's Pickett
Ad Age, May 29, 2000
Google is about to begin its first advertising campaign, on radio and in print.
Google Bets The Ranch On Linux
TechWeb, May 30, 2000
Google may be running more Linux servers than anyone else in the world, with 4,000 machines operating and plans to increase to 6,000.
Kid Search Engines
This page lists search engines like Google that have with filters designed to screen out porn sites.
Wild About WAP
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 2000
A bit more about wireless search engines and WAP. A link to the FAST WAP search engine and others can be found here.