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Google is expanding its news section with tools to let users sign up for news alerts or search specific news publications.

With the news alerts tool, users type in the news topic they would like to track, and choose whether they would like to receive bulletins once a day or "as it happens." The alerts will be sent to the e-mail address supplied by the user.

Google's news service at news.google.com is still technically in beta, but the facility already lets users search 4,500 publications and has also recently added an "advanced search" function.

Using the advanced tool users can type in the name of the publication they wish to search, including ElectricNews.net, on a specific topic. However, all news sources users might wish to search are unlikely to feature on the Google search list, and some search results are considerably more fruitful than others, while some find nothing at all. Users must also know the exact name of the publication as recorded by Google, if they wish to specify a news source -- IrishExaminer.com, for example, will return results, but The Examiner will not.

Users can also use the advanced search to request articles from sources in particular countries or US states.

Google is hoping that these added features will help it retain its dominant position in the search market, in the midst of increasing competition from industry players, Yahoo in particular. In July Yahoo announced its plans to acquire the pay-per-click search company Overture for $1.6 billion.

Yahoo has its own news alert facility, where the actual list of sources is available to users under various news areas, such as business or entertainment. To avail of the Yahoo news alert facility, users must have a Yahoo e-mail account.

In addition to these news search tools, Google announced in June a new self-service option for Google AdSense, a program whereby Web sites can host ads precisely targeted to the specific content of their individual Web pages. The search company is also advertising Google Toolbar 2.0 beta, with new features including Web logging, form filling and tools to block pop-up ads.

In March this year Google confirmed speculation that its first operations centre outside the US would be based in Dublin, creating over 200 jobs over three years. The centre is to link the company's global business, serving Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In addition to its service functions, the Google is locate servers and associated networking equipment in Ireland to handle its growing search traffic. The company claims to perform 200 million searches a day.

© ENN

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