Google's Overhauling Search to Make It Semantic

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Google isn't one to rest on its laurels, and over the coming months it plans to massively overhaul its search system. Expect to see far more than just a page of links; Google is planning to push the boundaries of semantic search to give you answers directly.

A Wall Street Journal report suggests that these changes are "among the biggest in the company's history and could affect millions of websites that rely on Google's current page-ranking results." A cynic might suggest that they'll also help Google to shove more ads down peoples' throats.

What can you expect to see? A huge shift to semantic search — a process that involves software actually understanding the meaning of words — which will rely on a massive database of people, places and things that Google has amassed over the past two years. It adds context, meaning it can link people to organisations, say, or differentiate Jaguar cars from jaguar animals.

And how will that affect users? According to Google's Amit Singhal results will look more like "how humans understand the world," by which he means that searches will throw up attributes as well as links. As the WSJ points out, search for "Lake Tahoe" and you'll see things like location, altitude, average temperature or salt content straight away — not just a link to Wikipedia. More complex searches will throw up more complex data, represented as tables, lists or graphs. If that sounds a bit like Wolfram Alpha, umm, that's because it is.

But expect Google to put its own — undoubtedly superior — spin on the technology. In particular, there will probably be deep and rich integration of video, images and books, as well as intelligent systems that don't just look up data from Google's database but learn from searches over time. And ads; expect more ads, too. [Wall Street Journal]