When Google came along, it redefined the search experience to the point where its name has become a colloquial verb ("to Google"), meaning to search. Even though it has since diversified greatly, from applications to hardware, it remains committed to continuing to lead the search world.
While competitors like Microsoft hone their sharpest new products, Google is equally hard at work and has just released two fruits of its recent labor: new searches for images and news.
The first is a site called Similar Images, which eschews actual image recognition like Apple's recent iPhoto (which can recognize faces) in favor of a user refined search, driven by metadata. What does this mean? If searching for a picture related to Apple Inc., a user might type in Apple and see pictures of apples (fruit), Apple computers, Apple corp. headquarters, Apple Corp. (the Beatles record label), etc. By clicking on one of these results and searching for similar images, the search can be refined.
The approach arguably works as good or better than graphical image recognition, while being far less computationally intensive. The downside is that someone has to type in the metadata, which a home user is unlikely to do (so Apple's software still makes sense), but which an internet author is likely to do (as metadata already drives page searches).
The second new service is called News Timeline. This search engine provides refined time searches for news only (crude time-specific searches are already in Google's base search engine, but often return inaccurate results for when the page was published). The result is that you can specify a time period of a specific day, week, month, year, or decade, and get news results tagged with specific keywords from that time period.
This search in particular should be a godsend for tired college students looking to get their Sociology or History reports done. To bring the Apple theme full circle, the new search was actually designed by Andy Hertzfeld, a former member of the original Apple Macintosh design team, lured away by Google. He pointed out at a special news conference that the search not only encompasses web articles, but scanned books, print newspapers, and magazines.
Some magazines such as Popular Science have given Google special permission to show old articles; for others it will take you to the publication's web page and provide you with information on what issue to look in.
Both of the new search engines are part of Google Labs, Google's research and development efforts. Google Labs recently got a shiny new webpage. Describes R.J. Pittman, director of product management at Google, "We actually gutted it and rebuilt it from the ground up."