I don't think anyone's come up with a good name for them yet. I call them "mini links". If that doesn't clue you on to what I'm talking about (and you'd certainly be forgiven for that) then the mass of screen grabs in today's entry will be ample illustration.
The mini links are one of the GUI experiements Google rolled out in the last quarter of 2005. They appeared at the same time as the "See results for" split (which I dislike) and the "Also see results for" (which I dislike more). Mini links are triggered on popular search terms and are selected by the algo. They're a mixture of on-page and off-page factors. Matt blogged their arrivial (describing them as better snippets).
Here's what happens when you Google for Yahoo:
Here's another for Microsoft:
I'm using Microsoft as an example because this triggers a Google News onebox result. Let's head off the argument that you can't have both mini links and onebox.
And finally, here's Google on Google:
Once you've stopped being impressed at my ability to cut graphics into the same shape... you'll see that there are no mini links for Google. None? Not even Advertising Programs or About Google.
It's tempting to speculate that Google is pushing Google Talk by ensuring it gets the second billing. Lots of punters really will click through... and Google Talk really does need that extra push.
So, are Google massaging the results here?
Alas, I'm not going to claim the scoop. I don't think so. I do think it's an algo call. There are plenty of external deep links to other Google pages for the algo to latch onto and create a mini link from but the famous home page is very clearly as much as a blank sheet as it can get away with - hence, no prompting the algo to create mini links.
That said, the same could be said of the new MSN design:
There you go.