Google Officially Releases Toolbar Update

Google officially released the new version of its toolbar on Wednesday, giving users a chance to do Google searches directly from the browser add-on while blocking pop-up ads at the same time.

The Google Toolbar 2.0 is an update to its first browser toolbar released in December 2000. New capabilities include the ability to block pop-up advertisements, automatically fill in Web forms, and create a link to a Blogger blog with one click.

The toolbar is available, for free, to users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser. Google currently does not make a Mac-compatible version.

With its pop-up blocker, Google joins a variety of Internet service providers in taking aim at the controversial Web ad format. The toolbar blocks all pop-ups, whether advertisements or sign-in forms from banking sites, alerting users each time it blocks one. Users cannot, however, see the pop-ups that were blocked. The toolbar does contain a whitelist for sites a user wishes to exempt from pop-up blocking, and users can allow pop-ups one at a time by pushing the “Ctrl” key while the pop-up is emerging.

Google has not said how many users have downloaded the toolbar.

The “BlogThis” function is an offshoot of Google’s February 2003 purchase of Pyra Labs and its Blogger push-button Web publishing platform. BlogThis instantly connects users to their Blogger accounts to create a Weblog post pointing to the page they are visiting.

Users of rival blogging software, such as Six Apart’s MoveableType and Radio UserLand, cannot use the feature. Rivals have accused Google of using its muscle to give Blogger a leg up.

The AutoFill feature will complete Web forms for a user based on information that is entered and stored on the user’s computer. Google does not receive any of the information.

The new Google toolbar, which was released in beta a little more than six weeks ago, is an example of search engines’ strategy to move search from destination pages into utilities.

Yahoo has put new emphasis on its Companion toolbar, launched in November 2002, while also adding a search box to its instant messaging client.

Microsoft is reportedly planning on integrating search as part of the new version of its Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn. The new search function is expected to combine Web search with document and database search to create an all-in-one search capability.

To get there, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to improve its search technology, pointing out that its own research has found that half of all search queries go unanswered. To address this opening, Microsoft has devoted considerably new resources to developing search technology, including tripling its search staff and releasing a search bot earlier this summer.

In addition to the toolbar, Google has added a calculator function to its search engine. Now, users can type in arithmetic for Google to calculate. The calculator can handle a wide range of computations, from multiplication to metric conversion to the radius of the earth.

Google is not alone in offering a calculator. AlltheWeb.com, owned by Overture Services, also offers similar functionality.

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