Just as Google Labs and Gmail Labs are playgrounds for new ideas, Toolbar Labs was built to get ideas out there quickly to see how you like them.
The first two Lab versions of the toolbar are interesting and quite different. The first is called Google Toolbar with My Location. This is designed to create the same experience for computer users that was given to the mobile set last September with Mobile Search with My Location.
With Toolbar with My Location, both Google Maps and the included Maps gadget automatically center on your current location. Similarly, you can just do a search like [thai food], and you will receive a list of nearby restaurants and more local Google search results. This feature is similar to IP-based local search results announced earlier this month, except Google Toolbar with My Location can determine a more accurate location by using nearby Wi-Fi access points. This is done without associating location information with a user’s Google Account. Google Toolbar with My Location is only available in the U.S.
The second version is intended to simplify the Chinese Google toolbar and is appropriately called Google Simplified Chinese Toolbar. Tricky! Now if only Google could do something to get information past those pesky government censors that cause more than a few issues for the ‘free’ Internet in China.
Google makes it clear that these toolbars are pre-beta which means they are not tested as well so stability can be an issue. They aim to take ideas in and implement those that are deemed worthy. Whether they survive the lab phase is on a case by case basis.
One thing that is a bit disconcerting though is that these ‘experiments’ are only available to Internet Explorer users. Guess I’ll just have to wait then.