Google Opens Up a Sandbox, but the Differences are Quiet

When I heard that Google had opened up a new search sandbox, I got pretty wound up. “Woo hoo!” sez I. “Maybe a new search interface, maybe some more search syntax, perhaps a new way to see search results — can’t wait!”

I shouldn’t have gotten so wound up. There are a few differences in this new interface, but most regular users won’t notice much of anything. If you poke around enough you can see some new details.

But to start at the beginning. A post on yesterday’s Google Webmaster Central blog was titled “Help test some next-generation infrastructure” and noted that a next-generation architecture for Google’s Web search is underway. Users are invited to try the new search engine at and ideally provide feedback on the differences between the current Google’s search results, and the new Google’s search results. Google is also requesting what it calls “higher-level” feedback (feedback on how certain types of sites are ranking in the new system.) Matt Cutts has some more details on this new update, called the caffeine update, at

When writing up the Google News article, I noticed that Google seems to be more stopword-friendly, so for comparison I did a search for a in both current Google (CG) and newer Google (NG). CG has a search result at this writing is 17,450,000,000. For NG, the result at this writing is 19,360,000,000. So despite the fact that this is a test search environment NG appears to have a larger search index than CG.

I went to the advanced search page, which looks the same as the current one, so no luck there. So I ran some search comparisons between CG and NG, and while there were some differences they were subtle.

Google's New Caffeine

I turned the search options on — the little sidebar on the left — and started running searches. Hawaii was a good one, with 157,000,000 results on NG versus 132,000,000 on CG. Flipping the search results back and forth it seems that the primary difference with the new index is that the multimedia content gets pushed down a little bit.

I also noticed that with CG several searches would have Google Books listings at the bottom of the search results. With NG those Google Books listings were absent. And this is just an aesthetic thing … but I noticed that the search options on the side do link you to some particular kinds of content, like reviews and content. On the other hand, there are also links to certain types of content across the top of the search results page. Would there be any way to put all that on the search options sidebar?

As for the search results themselves, the differences in search results I saw were fairly subtle. Doing a search for the I was surprised to see that Wikipedia was pushed down a bit, since Wikipedia has traditionally gotten much Google love. (It was not the result; the result for the is The Onion, which makes me quietly happy.) The search for hotels did have a pretty different top 10 between CG and NG, but more surprising was the search count. CG had 367,000,000 results, far more than the 21,100,000 offered by NG. What’s being kicked out that the numbers differ that much?

It’s interesting to compare the new search results but aside from those crazy count differences for a few of my searches and the lack of Google Books results, I didn’t see a lot of changes here.

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