Google took its two newest steps on the march toward world domination this week, first rolling out a feature that lets people make free phone calls from Gmail, and then introducing real-time searching of fast-updating information, like tweets. The first initiative is off to a hot start. Gmail users placed more than a million phone calls through Google on the service's first day Wednesday.
Calling from within Gmail, by contrast, requires nothing more than installing a small plug-in program (available for Windows XP or newer, Mac OS X 10.4 or newer and some versions of Linux) and logging into Gmail. Click the "Call phone" link to the left of your inbox, type in a number, click the big blue "Call" button and things proceed as if you had just finished spinning a Bell System phone's rotary dial [Washington Post].
And more importantly, the phone service is free as long as you dial within the United States or Canada (it costs a few cents per minute to dial elsewhere). Google hasn't said whether the service will remain that way (though they did promise not to record or listen to phone conversations). With its new Realtime Search
, the search engine giant is trying to keep pace with the blistering rate that information moves on networks like Twitter.
Conventional search engines, such as Google's, aren't very good at capturing down-to-the-second postings on such sites. Google and other search engines "know these are the sources people are going to" and they want to keep them on their pages longer, said Larry Cornett, a former executive overseeing Yahoo's search engine and now product-strategy consultant at Brilliant FORGE. The challenge for Google and others it to organize the real-time information so it's more relevant to users, rather than just a blast of messages "without meaning on top of it," he said [Wall Street Journal].
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