At what point does Google stop being a search engine and start being what we used to call a Portal? Or has it already happened? Yesterday it announced a new search feature for tracking shipments via Federal Express and United Parcel Service. Type in your tracking number into Google and it will take you directly to the relevant company’s webpage, CNET reports.
The new “Search by Number” feature also brings up information linked to other kinds of numbers, such as patent numbers, equipment identification numbers issued by the Federal Communications Commission, and airplane registration numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration (for checking flight delays).
As Gary Price of ResourceShelf points out, offering such specialized information is not new: Ask Jeeves has been working on something called Smart Answers, AltaVista on Shortcuts for even longer. It’s intriguing that what folk a few years back thought would be popular — lots of noisy graphics and titbits of news in an all-flashing, all-dancing big brand portal — is being overtaken by something very, very simple: a quiet, white interface that lets you find what you want, whether it’s a recipe or a patent, fast. I kinda like that.