Google has just released a new beta version of the their toolbar.
Google Toolbar 3.0 (beta) can now be downloaded via a link at: http://toolbar.google.com or via this link. If you already have the Google Toolbar installed, you'll still need to download this beta version. In other words, Toolbar 3.0 will not automatically install on your browser.
When I first learned that a new Google toolbar was coming, I figured after last week's release of the Yahoo Toolbar for Firefox, I would learn that the a new Google Toolbar would soon be available for Firefox. Well, I was wrong. Google Toolbar 3.0 (beta) is still ONLY available for Internet Explorer running Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP. Google didn't provide any info about when (if ever) versions for Firefox and the Mac will be available.
What does Version 3.0 offer?
OK, now that I've answered the question many of you might have been asking, let's take a look at the three new features that Google Toolbar 3.0 offers:
+ Spelling Correction
A new button on the toolbar allows you to use Google's spell check technology on any web form. For example, you can now spell check your work if you use many web-based e-mail service like Gmail. (-: When you're ready to spell check, click the "check" button on the toolbar. If an incorrect spelling is detected, the word will be highlighted in red. Click the link and corrected spellings are suggested. It's also possible at this point to edit the word (a box will surround the term) or add the term to your personal spell check dictionary. If you select a corrected spelling, the term turns green and you're on to the next word. Click again to turn off the spell check. This feature should get the Google "as an operating system" people talking.
This might not only be useful (or not) to you but the commercial possibilities are massive. With "AutoLink" enabled, the toolbar will be "enhanced" with additional links if Google thinks additional information might be helpful. For example, say your browsing a web page with numerous addresses on it. AutoLink will turn each of those addresses into direct links to the Google Maps database. Google currently offers AutoLinks for the following info (if it's recognized on the web page your looking at or found in other material your viewing in your browser):
++ Addresses (U.S. Only)
++ Package Tracking Numbers
It's interesting to note that Google must have some type of arrangement with Amazon.com on this one. I searched for a book directly from the Barnes & Noble database. As soon as I visited a page for a book with an ISBN, the link button on the browser that was labeled "AutoLink" changed to read "Show Book Info." When I clicked on the button I went directly to the ISBN link on the B&N page. However, if I selected the arrow next to the button, the ISBN appeared with a hotlink to the book's page in the Amazon database. In this case, we're going to have to wait and see if Google will allow a user to choose their favorite book merchant or even query a libraries local catalog?
The AutoLink feature reminds me of (providing related links/info based on content found on a page NOT in its implementation) Microsoft's Smart Tags (with Word Documents), Vibrant Media's IntelliTXT, Gurunet/Answer.com's One-Click Answers, Blinkx, Intellext, and what Flyswat offered more than five years ago. Yahoo's new YQ! service also allows web page authors to embed tags into their web pages to find related info.
Speculation? Sure, I'm game. It will be interesting to see how this goes over. If it does, will AutoLink be a new revenue stream for Google? Will they begin offering paid partnerships to certain database publishers and/or advertisers to have their content directly accessible as an "AutoLink"? What criteria will they use to determine useful AutoLinks? I'm also wondering if Google will take the AutoLink technology and make it part of the Google Search Appliance and Google Mini products. In other words, will customers be able to create their own AutoLinks across an enterprise? Bottom Line? Plenty to think about with this feature.
+ Word Translator
The third new feature included in the Google Toolbar 3.0 beta release is what the company is calling "Word Translator." With this feature activated, each word on all web pages and other material viewable in your IE browser can be hovered over and translated one word at a time. Translation is available for eight languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Japanese, or Korean) utilizing the same technology available on Google's Language Tools page.
How long will Google Toolbar 3.0 be a beta release? Marissa Mayer, Director of Consumer Web Products at Google, told me that she was planning for a two month beta release. She also said that these new features have been available internally (to Googlers) for the past few months. Finally, if you're wondering what's the current percentage of searches originating from the Google Toolbar, so was I. I asked a Google spokesperson for some help with the answer but unfortunately they wouldn't share the info.
UPDATE: Marissa told Johh B. that the toolbar user base was "in the millions."