February 17, 2004, 12:00 AM

Google expands web index to more than 6 billion items

In an effort to maintain its position as the leading web search engine, Google has increased its web index to more than 6 billion items, including 4.28 billion web pages and 880 million images, it said today.

In an effort to maintain its position as the leading web search engine, Google Inc. has increased its web index to more than 6 billion items, including more than 4 billion web pages and 880 million images, it said today. "Google Image Search has been significantly updated," said Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president of technology. "We`ve doubled the index to more than 880 million images, enhanced search quality, and improved the user interface."

Google Web Search, the company’s flagship product, now lets users search for 4.28 billion web pages, including such non-HTML files as PDF, Microsoft Office and Corel documents, Google said. That compares to 3.3 web pages as of August 2003, a spokesman says.

Providing more pages in an index, however, does not necessarily lead to better searches, says Matthew Berk, an independent web technology analyst based in New York. "Having a very high number of documents is only good when doing something very generic in locating general information on the web," he says. "But when it comes to questions within specific fields of knowledge, having more documents doesn’t necessarily guarantee more relevancy."

As the search engine market continues to develop, Berk says, there will be a greater emphasis on tools that provide search within specific fields.

Google also said the Google Image Search product now lets users search by image size, format (JPEG and/or GIF) and coloration, and allows users to restrict searches to specific sites or domains. It also said that Google Groups, a tool for searching a 20-year archive of Usenet discussion records, offers more than 845 million postings in more than 35,000 topical categories.

Google also said it is testing a new service, Google Print, that is designed to let users immediately access book-related material, such as first chapters, reviews and bibliographical information, with links to buy pages.

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