Google says Caffeine, the next version of its search-engine infrastructure, will soon be available to a wider audience, offering technology designed to deliver faster and more accurate results.
The company has provided no specific launch date, but says Caffeine should be fully deployed early in 2010.
"The reason we are not rolling it out completely before the end of the year is because we know that for lots of webmasters the holiday period is extremely important, especially if they are in any way retail-based. We don't want them to have to worry about it in the lead-up to the holidays," Google spokesman Anthony House told ZDNet UK.
In a blog posting on Tuesday, Google principal engineer Matt Cutts said Google was ready to move to the next stage of the rollout by going live with Caffeine at one of its datacentres. "This means that a small percentage of Google's users will benefit from the technology behind Caffeine in their regular searches," Cutts wrote.
The first sign of Caffeine's impending appearance was a message on the Caffeine sandbox page, where developers and the public have been previewing the technology and leaving comments.
In the brief message posted at the sandbox address on Tuesday, Google said Caffeine would soon be available to the public. "We believe Caffeine is ready for a larger audience. Soon we will activate Caffeine more widely," the message said.
Google said the sandbox was no longer needed and was now closed. "But we appreciate the testing and positive input that webmasters and publishers have given," Google said.
In August, Google revealed that a large team had been working on Caffeine, which it described as a secret project to produce the search giant's next-generation architecture.
Caffeine looks unlikely to alter the familiar look of Google search, but will work in the background, improving the engine's index size, indexing speed and accuracy. Unlike Google's regular updates to its search technology, the new engine represents a significant change in part of the company's search infrastructure.
House said Caffeine represents an overhaul of the search-infrastructure backend. "Most consumers won't notice a difference. It shouldn't affect large numbers of webmasters, but that's why we launched it in a sandbox form — so that any unanticipated consequences could be flagged early," House said.
As well as offering benefits in terms of search quality, Caffeine will allow Google to make more innovations more easily. "If we do upwards of 400 algorithm tweaks a year, part of the idea behind Caffeine is that it will be easier to implement those tweaks," House added.