Skip to content

OPLIN 4Cast #274: Semantic search gets bigger

Posted in 4cast

You may have seen some recent news articles about Google’s plans to make their search more “semantic.” What exactly does that mean? Well, people tend to use Internet search tools in two different ways: either to find their way to a particular document on the web, or to find the answer to a particular question. The same thing happens at the reference desk of a library, where you can have simple directional questions (“where’s the restroom?”) or more complex requests for information (“how many hog farms are in Iowa?”). If a user is looking for the answer to a particular question, the search tool is much more effective if it can understand the semantics of the question – the contextual meaning of the user’s search terms – instead of just handling the words as individual keywords. But until recently, computer software hasn’t been very good at that.

  • Google Search will soon ‘answer questions’, instead of just hunting words – a shift which makes it more like Microsoft’s Bing (Daily Mail/Rob Waugh)  “The move echoes what Microsoft has done with its Bing search engine. Bing is the second most-popular search engine in the U.S. – and built to deliver answers to questions. ‘People today expect more than 10 blue links on a page,’ says Microsoft.”
  • Google knowledge graph could change search forever (Mashable/Lance Ulanoff)  “The transition from a word-based index to this knowledge graph is a fundamental shift that will radically increase power and complexity. [Google search engineer Amit] Singhal explained that the word index is essentially like the index you find at the back of a book: ‘A knowledge base is huge compared to the word index and far more refined or advanced.’”
  • Google semantic search: bad for SEO, good for you (ReadWriteWeb/Jon Mitchell)  “It’s not just the interpretation of queries that will improve; the quality of results will be better since they can’t be gamed with keywords. This will change Google’s ad business profoundly, but that change is inevitable. If Google doesn’t become the most relevant, intelligent search assistant, Apple’s Siri will.”
  • Google semantic search – eyeing Siri and other rivals? (Know Your Mobile/Radnyee Chunodkar)  “While in an interview with the WSJ, Google search executive Amit Singhal stated: ‘When we can deliver small nuggets of information, that system is far more suited to mobile phones and searching with voice’. This evidently gives a cue that Google is eyeing to topple rival Siri. Apple’s intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator, Siri uses a natural language user interface by putting into action the semantic technology.”

Entities fact:
Google has prepared for this move by collecting a huge database of 200 million related “entities”: people, places, and products.