Back in December 2002, Google launched its long expected product and shopping search engine. It was called Froogle, a combination of “frugal” and “Google.” Just over four years later, Froogle is finally losing its cutesy name for something more descriptive — to become Google Product Search. It will also gain a cleaner interface, as well.
The changes are not yet live, now currently expected to happen around 7pm Pacific time, Google says. Why the name change at all? Because Google’s grown up since Froogle was launched and better understands the importance of names and brands:
“We were a really young company, and I don’t think we really understood the burden of a new brand,” said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google. “I also think it was very hard to build awareness. Our product offering was very robust, but it will fare better with a Google Product Search name.”
Indeed, many people often overlook the various vertical search options that sit above the search box on the Google home page — the links to Images, Video, News & Maps search offerings. Froogle — which was a home page link from March 2004 until being dropped in August 2006 — suffered further in that you had no idea what Froogle offered from the name. There was nothing to make you think that Froogle meant shopping or product search.
Despite the name change, Google Product Search won’t regain home page positioning. It remains buried as part of the “More” options after the Images, Video, News & Maps links. However, Mayer said that Google is currently experimenting with new navigation across Google properties, so it could be that Google Product Search might find a better home this way. Google Tests Top Of Page Navigation Links and Google Continues Testing Top Of Page Services Links are recent articles from us that cover some of the testing that’s been going on.
Beyond the name change, Google Product Search is also to be more streamlined. The big giant box of query refinement options that were at the top of the page will move to the bottom and be more condensed. Here’s a quick before and after, based on a screenshot of what Google sent me of the future look:
For posterity, how the full refinements used to look:
And how they are to appear at the bottom of the new pages:
The refinements were relatively little used at the top of the page, Mayer said, and putting them down at the bottom also seemed to make more sense.
The one refinement option that remains at the top of the page is the option to filter results by those accepting Google Checkout.
Google certainly has self-interest here in leaving that up top. It wants more people using Google Checkout, its own payment system. Over the past months, we’ve seen Google Checkout badges get bigger in ads and become a filtering option for product searches.
After the filtering option was first added in January, Google explained that Google Checkout users themselves were pushing for this option. It’s now getting special treatment as the remaining filtering option at the top of Google Product Search because of continued heavy usage.
By default, all merchants are shown in product search results regardless of their Google Checkout participation unless you are a Google Checkout user. In that case, only stores offering Google Checkout as a payment option will be shown, unless the searcher specifically turns off the filter.
“We have definitely found for Checkout users, they want to see Checkout merchants only,” Mayer said.
Clearly merchants thinking about Google Product Search listings will need to consider offering Google Checkout as an option even more than before. Meanwhile, the new partnership where PayPal is being promoted at Yahoo makes me think we’ll see a similar option eventually come to Yahoo Shopping, the ability to filter by PayPal Express Checkout. Merchants may find they need to enroll in both programs (which I think is perfectly fine) in order to maintain visibility.
By the way, I asked if Google might consider letting people filter to PayPal merchants, since some users might want that option. Possibly — assuming that PayPal was to share some of the data about its merchants that Google collects about its own, Mayer said. These are details such as how merchants are rated by buyers, fraud and so on. That type of sharing isn’t something I think anyone would expect.
Now back to the entire name thing. If Froogle was too cutesy, what about that other notable funky Google product name — Gmail, a play on Google + email? Will that be changing to Google Mail? In Germany and the United Kingdom, Google already uses that name because of legal reasons, where others hold trademarks on Gmail.
Mayer said Google has debated such a change but a key factor is staying with Gmail is so people have a shorter @gmail.com address rather than a longer @googlemail.com one.
How about giving everyone a @google.com address, similar to how Yahoo did all those years ago with it began offering mail?
That’s also been considered, but if Google were to go that route, it would want to better assess the value of offering that domain to others, she said.
Orkut — Google’s social networking system – is also a funky name situation, named for its creator Orkut Büyükkökten. Mayer said renaming that service, as with Gmail, isn’t as easy as with Froogle because of the large user base.
Finally, I started to go into the entire “is Google Base ultimately a replacement for Google Product Search” question, something that was speculated about last year. That idea died, so I skipped getting into it more for this story — especially as Mayer said Google Base was NOT a shopping search replacement. But News.com has a write-up on the Froogle-Google Product Search change that gets into it more, if you’re curious.