Since I tend to use rather better search engines than Google I was vaguely aware that they'd been messing around with advanced search, but today was the first time that I went there intending to do an Advanced search and the option wasn't where it should have been. A slight panic - had Google actually got rid of it entirely? Given their attitude towards search recently, and the wholesale destruction of things like the Wonderwheel and dropping the use of the '+' symbol it wouldn't have surprised me that much to be honest.
However no, they've just made it more difficult to find. In the normal, sane world, this is utter madness - why make a set of useful functions harder to get to? In Googleworld though, this makes perfect sense. Google doesn't want users to search and work out things for themselves - they want people to take their pre-packaged, sanitized, we-know-what's-best set of results, tied into their adverts. If people start to think heaven only knows where that will end, and we can't have that. Anyway, I'll stop the rant there. To find advanced search you have two options - scroll to the bottom of the page and it's there:
Neither of these options are intuitive or sensible. Just to make things interesting, it would, in the sane world be logical to roll out the same thing through all the products wouldn't it. However, Googleworld is not like that. Take a look at Google News. The Advanced Search option has disappeared from there as well. To be fair, run a search and the Advanced Search option is at the bottom of the screen. But, if you like the idea of using the cogwheel, you're out of luck:
It's magically reappeared again. Now, that's pretty nuts, but we haven't even started yet. Take a look at the News search box - if you haven't searched, there's a half diamond - run your cursor over it, and this is what you get:
However, if you click on the bottom of the page option, OR the cogwheel, you get taken to a new page entirely - so Google thinks it's a good idea to have two totally different ways of getting access to the same search options. But wait - there's more! Once you have run your search, the little half diamond disappears, so you can't do another advanced search in the same way. You have to use the bottom of the page or cog wheel option, OR go back manually to the News home page.
What about other offerings? You can't have advanced search with Images, as everything is done using the left hand menu choices. However, in video search, you have the cogwheel option and the bottom of the page advanced search function, but you don't get the half diamond in the search box. I could continue, but you get the idea. What's really amusing though, is if you take a look at the Offical Google blog post for June 28th 2011 you get this gem: "The way people use and experience the web is evolving, and our goal is to give you a more seamless and consistent online experience—one that works no matter which Google product you’re using or what device you’re using it on." Seriously?
Now, just before I finish, one more thing to note - Google now considers guessing is a good idea. I'll confess that this is one which passed me by until I actually saw it with my own eyes, but Google is inserting best guesses at the top of some results pages. It looks like this:
You can also try it with searches such as Steve Jobs sister, Microsoft's CEO, and I love the fact that you can also do this for Google's CEO - which leads to the surreal situation that Google is taking guesses as to who is in charge! This feature doesn't work for all searches, mainly those with one or two word answers, and the examples that work change all the time - a search on the height of the Eiffel Tower used to trigger a best guess, but no longer.
Are we going to see best guesses for train times, flight arrivals, election results and so on in the future? Futhermore, we all know that people don't check facts - if someone reports something other newspapers copy it, and then we're going to end up with a best guess that's totally wrong. I suppose however it does lead to a nice line: 'Google guesses, Librarians check'.