Google announced a major revamp of its web domineering search engine on Wednesday, just days after Microsoft’s rival Bing service announced upgrades of its own.
Google’s new search powers are encapsulated in what the company calls a Knowledge Graph, in which the new algorithms attempt to understand exactly what people are looking for and present basic answers on the results page, without users needing to click on any secondary links.
“We’ve always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want,” blogged Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice-president of engineering. “And we can now sometimes help answer your next question before you’ve asked it, because the facts we show are informed by what other people have searched for.”
Using what Mr. Singhal called the “collective intelligence of the web,” the Knowledge Graph shows results for Tom Cruise, for example, that manage to answer 37 per cent of the next questions that people usually ask.
“This used to be the stuff of dreams because we didn’t really know how to accomplish it,” Mr. Singhal said. “The dream has always been to understand things like you and I do, so this really feels like a sea change.” The new information will be contained in a special panel next to the traditional search results, Google said, and will be rolled out to users in the United States in the coming days before going international.
Jack Menzel, director of product management at Google, said that the initial version of Knowledge Graph has information on 500 million people, places and things and uses 3.5 billion defining attributes and connections to create categories for them.
Microsoft is investing billions of dollars in Bing in an attempt to close the search gap with Google, which serves some two thirds of all U.S. web searches compared to 15 per cent on Microsoft’s Bing.