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Jun 5, 2008

NEWS: CNET Interview with Google Search Guru

At Google, a search guru's dream comes true

Q&A Search has become central to the functioning of the Internet, but Udi Manber isn't the kind of person who takes that for granted.

"I don't have to tell anybody around here that search is important. That's a very nice luxury to have," said Manber, the Google vice president in charge of search quality.manber

Udi Manber, Google VP, engineering

Search quality may seem like an unassuming element of Google's operations, but in fact it's at the core. Manber oversees the company's search algorithm--all the different inputs Google weighs to judge which Web sites to rank highest in search results.

Manber's work has been highly secret, partly because search is central to Google's competitive advantage and partly because Google doesn't want people gaming the system to get artificially prominent results. But the company has begun sharing a smidgen, including an opening blog post by Manber in May. I talked to him at Google headquarters recently.

How mature is search today on the Internet? Are we 5 percent of the way done with the problem? Ninety percent? 
My best analogy is that a 15-year-old thinks he's very mature. A 19-year-old thinks he's extremely mature. Every few years you learn that you were not mature before. Search on the Web is about 15 years old, and obviously we were much more mature than we were 5 years ago and 10 years ago and 15 years ago. One way to put it is that it's science fiction every 5 years. What's possible today to me was science fiction 5, or definitely 10 years ago. What was (ordinary) 10 years ago was science fiction 15 years ago. The development is really pretty amazing. It surprised even me. I expect a certain level of progress, and we're actually surpassing it...

Ed: Public expectations change over time. 

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