Long famous for allowing employees to spend 20% of their time on experimental work, Google is experimenting in public with a number of projects that give a nod to the mashup ethic. It was a very busy summer for Google; from their Google Apps for Your Domain launch to the partnership with Intuit to the acquisition of biometric company Neven Vision. It doesn’t look like things are slowing down going into the Fall.
Here’s an overview of some of the most recent offerings in the spirit of the mashup that the company has made available.
Google Gadgets Set Free
Formerly trapped largely in Google Desktop, more than 1200 Google Gadgets (widgets) were set free today for embedding in any web page. Site publishers can now make it even easier for their visitors to get driving directions, view Picasa photo albums or play hang-man. (Ok, how about a multi-video player widget, live sports scores or a police and fire map from Incidentlog.com.) Widgets are going to be everywhere next year, as they help non-technical site publishers pull in rich, dynamic data from all around the web and place it on one page. There should be even more interesting Gadgets on the way; the Google Gadgets Awards for Students contest ends November 1st and is being judged by people like Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame and Commander Taco from Slashdot.
The forthcoming issue of Time Magazine includes an interview with Google’s Marrissa Meyer, who says the company is building a multi-site search tool. It may look like Rollyo, the Yahoo! Search Builder or Windows Live Search Macros. That would be very useful and I hope it comes out soon.
Google launched a new site this week with hardly a word of Google branding, called SearchMash.com. It looks like one place to put lots of user interface experiments in one site. It’s basically the Google web and image search results displayed in a different way, including drag and drop reordering (hardly as useful yet as the Live.com search scratchpad), an Ajax “infinite scroll” that lets users stay on one page to view a long list of results and a right click drop down menu for options to display a URL. The best part of this is the option to request a new search for your search term inside the domain of the page you click on. That way once you find a site that discusses something once, you can easily view all the instances of that term being used everywhere in the site. Image search results are also displayed on the right side of SearchMash pages.
Ajax Search API 1.0
Google’s Ajax Search API version 1.0 was released today. The API makes it easy for site publishers to put a nice looking Ajax search box for video, news and maps embedded in their own pages or build applications on top of the API. See this page for an example of the video search, click on any of the still frames to see the feature in action.
Today’s release supports news search, restricting those searches to a list of news sources, local map search now including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, and the ability to access the API from behind intranet firewalls. Google is also now experimenting with putting sponsored links in the Ajax API search results. They aren’t charging advertisers for those clicks, but it is a sign that the strategy is under serious consideration.
All of these are signs that Google is staying current with the times. Yahoo! is moving in the same direction with everything from HackDay to an internal incubator to ongoing acquisitions of innovative mashup loving startups, the new BBAuth tool and a Yahoo! Mail API. Facebook is opening in even more ways. The mashup ethic is clearly no longer a fringe idea by idealistic small fries – it’s being embraced substantially by many of the web’s biggest players. Who’s doing the most? Probably Yahoo! Who’s doing the least? MySpace appears dead set against the whole thing.
Now that they are getting into the game, the next question will be whether companies play nice with everyone else and our data.