SearchMash is Google's testing ground

Google has launched a Web site to test user interface changes for its main google.com search engine.

Those curious about what enhancements Google may implement in its search engine should check out a new site called SearchMash.

Operated by Google, SearchMash is a testing ground for user interface changes that may or may not graduate to the Google.com search engine, a company spokeswoman said via e-mail.

"The goal of SearchMash is to test innovative user interfaces in order to continually improve the overall search experience for our users," she wrote.

The experimental search engine, at http://www.searchmash.com, looks very different from Google's Web sites and lacks Google branding. In this way, Google believes the site will yield more objective feedback from users, according to the spokeswoman.

SearchMash went up "recently" and can handle limited traffic, which may render it unavailable sometimes, she wrote.

Google.com's famously minimalistic look revolutionized Web user interfaces in the late 1990s, when home pages tended toward a cluttered look. Over the years, Google has been conservative about altering its site's design, so changes often attract wide attention.

When Google runs user interface tests on google.com, they invariably get reported about in the blogosphere along with screen shots and a heavy dose of speculation over the chances the changes have of being permanent.

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