Google Revamps Search Engine To Make It Smarter
First Published Wednesday, 16th May 2012 07:23 pm - © 2012 Dow Jones
(Updates with analyst comment and details)
By John Letzing
Of Dow Jones NEWSWIRES
SAN FRANCISCO -(Dow Jones)- Google Inc. (GOOG) announced plans Wednesday for an extensive update to its dominant search engine, using troves of data to refine the answers it provides to user queries on specific topics.
The technology known as "Knowledge Graph" is being rolled out by Google within its search service over the coming weeks, the company said. It uses a database of about 500 million people, places and things compiled by the company to figure out exactly what users are looking for, and present them with additional, related information.
An example would be a search for the term "Kings," which could be a professional basketball team, hockey team or TV series, said Ben Gomes, who holds the title of Google Fellow.
Using the new feature, Google will be able to figure out which "Kings" users mean by giving them some options, and then presenting them with a box on the right of search results with related photos and other data.
"There's only so far that words themselves can take us," Mr. Gomes said. "What we need to do is create a map of all the things in the real world, and the relationships between them."
The new service builds on Google's purchase of start-up Metaweb Technologies Inc., which had developed the Freebase database of information, in 2010.
Other data sources it has tapped include Google's own Books and Local services. In addition, "We have cars driving all over the place learning about places and businesses," Mr. Gomes said, in reference to Google's Street View cars which roam the streets gathering mapping and other data.
The significant update to Google's core search business comes as the company has spread its energy and resources across a number of different initiatives, including a social networking effort that has been heavily touted by Chief Executive Larry Page. Mr. Page, a company co-founder, stepped into the CEO role in April of last year, shortly before the Google+ social site was unveiled as a potential rival to Facebook Inc.
The latest search revamp is "especially what they need now," Danny Sullivan, a search expert and editor-in-chief of the blog Search Engine Land, said of Google. Such updates are necessary, he said, or "people might start saying you guys don't care about search anymore."
Mr. Sullivan said the addition of extensive data through the Knowledge Graph creates a more addictive experience for Google search users, who can now easily follow a series of links to related information on a topic. That in turn could boost the amount of searches users are conducting on the site, he said, adding, "I think one thing its going to do is cause people to spend a lot of time channel searching, instead of channel surfing."
Mr. Gomes said he doesn't anticipate the new feature will detract much from the search links paid for by advertisers, which traditionally appear on the right of a Google search page: "It has no significant impact on our ads."
He declined to say what percentage of total Google searches would be affected.
The move could bolster other Google initiatives, such as its Wallet mobile payment service. For example, Mr. Gomes noted that a search on a phone for a particular musician could return information including the date and time of their next concert.
The new feature is sweeping amplification of the so-called OneBox results that Google has been presenting alongside some search results for years, which include small bits of in-house data compiled by Google.
Google held a 66.5% share of the U.S. search market as of last month, according to comScore data. That compares to a combined 28.9% share for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), which have teamed up in a search alliance.