March 18, 2012, 7:16 AM — Google is planning major changes to its search engine that will make it easier and faster for users to get the information they need.
The company, according to Google Fellow Amit Singhal, is working to give its search engine a better understanding of the words it's searching. Google wants to do away with simply searching for word strings and coming out with Web site links, according Singhal.
Instead, Googlers want the new and improved search engine to give users facts and answers to their queries.
"Let me just say that every day, we're improving our ability to give you the best answers to your questions as quickly as possible," Singhal said in an emailed statement to Computerworld. "But our ability to deliver this experience is a function of our understanding your question and also truly understanding all the data that's out there. And right now, our understanding is pretty darn limited."
The issue is that a search engine needs to understand the words being queried. "Ask us for "the 10 deepest lakes in the U.S," and we'll give you decent results based on those keywords, but not necessarily because we understand what depth is or what a lake is," Singhal added.
The company is taking baby steps in this direction, but there's a long road ahead, he noted.
So how is Google making its search engine smarter?
In 2010, Google bought Metaweb, a company whose free and open database called Freebase, a large collection of information on people, places and things, Google is using in this search project. The more words and phrases that Google's search engine knows, the more easily it can find more precise query results, Singhal said.
Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said if Google succeeds, it could be a huge change for the whole search field.
"Over time, this could significantly change the results that Google serves up in searches," he added. "By adding semantic algorithms to the process, the results should be more suited to answering the questions people are actually asking rather than just delivering key word matches."