SAN FRANCISCO, AP -A new Google Inc. specialty search engine sifts through the Internet”s millions of frequently updated personal journals, a long-anticipated development expected to help propel "blogging" into the cultural mainstream.
The new tool, unveiled Wednesday at http://blogsearch.google.com, focuses exclusively on the material contained in the journals known as Web logs, or "blogs."
Mountain View-based Google, the Internet”s general search engine leader, first set its sights on blogs with its 2003 acquisition of a small startup called Blogger that makes software to publish and manage the journals.
Since that deal, Google had been expected to build a blogging-focused search engine — a mission finally accomplished by a group of by developers in the company”s New York office.
"There really has been a need for a world-class search product to expose this dynamic content to a worldwide audience," said Jason Goldman, who came to Google in the Blogger deal and is now the company”s product manager for blogging search.
Over the past two years, blogs have become an increasingly popular vehicle for sharing opinions and information, sometimes breaking news and more often prodding the mainstream media into reconsidering how it has handled some big stories.
First word of Google”s new searching tool was, in fact, disseminated by a blog.
A few people have been able to make a living largely off their blogs, or parlay them into book deals. Blogs also have been a source of embarrassment and angst, resulting in the firings of several workers, including a Google product manager, who angered their employers with revelations posted on their sites.
No one knows for certain just how big the so-called "blogosphere" has become. Technorati, the niche”s top search engine so far, says it indexes 17.1 million sites spanning about 1.5 billion links.
Goldman declined to disclose the size of Google”s blogging index.
Despite blogging”s steady growth, its appeal has remained narrow, skewing primarily to younger audiences and technological trendsetters.
But given Google”s broad reach, its specialty search engine is expected to provide blogging with additional momentum. Google said to tool would allow searches not just for blogs written in English but also in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese and other languages.
The appearance of the new Google tool, which catalogs the latest blog postings by looking at the Web feeds they generate, also makes it more likely that two other tech powerhouses and fierce rivals, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO – news) and Microsoft Corp., will develop a similar feature.
Microsoft”s next operating system, Vista, is supposed to feature built-in tools for Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, and Atom — the two most widely used techniques for letting people subscribe to Web feeds to keep abreast of the latest postings on blogs and news sites.
"This sort of feels like 1995 when the Web was just starting to explode. Now it feels like the same thing is happening to blogging," said Bob Wyman, chief technical officer for PubSub, which offers a Web feed subscription service.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft”s MSN already had been indexing blogs in their general search engines, but the broad approach reaps results that often buries blog links or points to outdated information.
By focusing exclusively on blog feeds, Google theoretically will be able to deliver fresher and more relevant results.
Google”s expansion, coupled with the likely invasion of Yahoo and Microsoft, could spell trouble for the early specialty engines that have helped bolster blogging in its early stages. Besides Technorati, this group includes Feedster, IceRocket and DayPop.
Although the pioneers have played an important role in blogging”s growth, they remain so small that only Technorati attracts enough visitors to register in the monthly Internet traffic measurements compiled by Nielsen/NetRatings.
Technorati drew 545,000 unique visitors last month, less than 1 percent of the 73.1 million that swarmed to Google”s main search page, Nielsen/NetRatings said.
In a Wednesday posting on his blog, Technorati founder David Sifry welcomed Google”s competition, describing it as "a validation moment for the blogosphere" and promising to counter with "some tricks up our sleeves."