GVU alumni Bharat received his PhD in 1996 on Human Computer Interaction under Scott Hudson. During his Phd work at Tech he also worked on a newspaper project called Krakatoa Chronicle. This was to lay the ground work for his later innovations at Google. The Krakatoa Chronicle was an interactive, personalized newspaper implemented completely in Java, which was in its infancy at that time.
“In the display of the newspaper I tried hard to make it look like a print newspaper rather than what you’d see online. So we had neatly justified, Times-Roman text in multiple columns and it looked a lot like real newspaper. Additionally it was interactive and you could give feedback. You could say whether you liked an article or not, and the newspaper would learn what your interests were. Over time the selection and ranking of stories would adapt to your taste. This project introduced me to the world of online news and personalization, and also gave me a crash course in information retrieval (the science of search) and personalization,” said Bharat.
Google news is the outcome of a project that Dr. Bharat started in late 2001 and for which he has been in a leadership role ever since. The service is a computer compiled news-site where all news that appears on the web is automatically detected, organized by story for easy browsing, ranked by worldwide interest, and indexed so that it can be searched on Google. This allows for users to quickly and efficiently access relevant news as soon as it is posted on the web.
“How the product was created is interesting. There was an increase in news reading activity nationwide, and possibly worldwide, soon after the September 11th attacks. I too was one of the many seeking news all over the web. I realized that given how the web was organized it was extremely difficult for readers to get a full understanding of what’s being published on any given topic in the news. Even though all the articles are present on the web, they’re so fresh that they have yet to be linked to from other web sites. I wondered whether it would be useful if someone were to group all articles reporting on a story in real time so that a reader could get to all of them very quickly.
“The project seemed compatible with Google’s core mission. Google’s aim is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. I felt that organizing the world’s news output by topic and making it available for readers to search and browse would be a useful thing to do,” said Bharat when asked about the inspiration behind Google news.
“Google News now has 41 editions, in 18 languages and users worldwide. The product has a loyal user base, and our users on average read news from multiple newspapers for each story they care about. This I believe makes them better educated than the average newspaper reader. We also have a mobile version for people on the go, as well as a news alerts service to deliver news over email.
“We recently integrated news videos hosted on YouTube and added the ability for people mentioned in a news story to contribute their own narrative to the mix. This is a truly innovative idea and permits the actors in the news event to communicate directly with the public,” added Bharat.
Video from the Symposium
Bharat has also earned a joint patent with Google on the Hilltop algorithm. The algorithm is an essential part of how Google search works.