Google is now offering several different alternate views for its search engine. You can see the announcement here, but you actually have to check out the search views at http://www.google.com/experimental/index.html. You’ll notice this is a Google Labs page. There are several “experiments” you can join here; the Alternate Views is the first one. (You can only join one at a time — bummer.)
Anyway, there are several views you can choose from. Pick a query that’s provided on the experiments page. When you choose one you’ll go to a result page that has several tabs of result types to choose from. The first tab, the “List View” appears to be the standard search result view — a vertical list of results occasionally with a screenshot or image.
The second tab, the “Info View” tab, looks like the List View but with a twist on the right side of the results. Instead of the standard snippets for each result (which usually contain the search term and some context), you can specify if you want to see dates, measurements, locations, or images. You can also filter the first three options — choosing to see only the year 1971, for example, or only the location Houston.
For the search terms I tried, I didn’t get much luck with anything but images. I had to make up a term that got plenty of results for all the Info View options (first man on the moon). Google did pretty well detecting the measurements and dates, but occasionally got it wrong (The date “31” and the word “Month” together was taken as a measurement; TV shows like 48 Hours and 60 Minutes were not recognized as such.) It wasn’t enough to make the view unusable.
The Timeline View pulls date information out of results and presents a timeline at the top of the results page. Click on it and your search results will be limited to the timespan you chose. Even with my first man on the moon, search, I found the timeline was pretty skimpy. Doing a search for World War II presented a much more populated, albeit narrowly-focused, timeline.
The last item on the tabs was to me the most impressive. The “Map View” presents the results on a Google Map. Your results are listed on the left and then marked on a map on the right. Click on a map marker and you’ll get a list of Web pages that refer to that location. So cool! You can also filter your results with an additional location so you get an even smaller map. For example, you could search for “Moon exploration” and you’ll get a map of the US. You can narrow your Map View by adding Houston and you’ll get a map of Houston with search results taking you all the way down to street addresses.
(Unfortunately it looks like the Map View is limited to Earth. I did a search for “Moon exploration” to see if I might get a map of the moon instead, and I didn’t.)