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Google beefs up mobile search with direct answers to common queries

August 10th, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Google (GOOG) is smart enough to know that when users type “weather” into its search engine, they don’t want to see a Wikipedia entry or a link to Weather.com — they just want to know the weather forecast for their area. With that in mind, Google has added some new features to its mobile search site aimed at giving users direct answers to their queries instead of a straight list of links to related websites.

In all, Google says it’s adding direct answers to mobile searches for a wide variety of topics, including the local weather, flight schedules and updates, updated stock prices, currency conversion, unit conversion, dictionary definitions, and holiday and sunrise times.

What makes the new search functionality interesting isn’t just the data it provides but its user interface: All answers are display prominently at the top of the screen in large letters that make them difficult to miss, meaning that users will get their answers first and will have to scroll down to see the standard link list that make up most Google searches.

The new features are part of Google’s larger quest to make its searches more personalized through programs such as Google Now that use search history and location history to figure out what information users might need at what times, such as being able to tell users how long their typical commutes will be given current traffic conditions, and being able to map out how long users will have to leave in advance for them to make appointments on time.

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