Google revamps search, adds encyclopedia-like entries with awareness of the real world


Google will add information to search results, intended to provide better information at a glance.

Google is working on its search pages again in its quest to provide users with more relevant results. This time, the search engine is adding short fact boxes to the right column of its results that are supposed to tailor results and give users more information at a glance.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Google fellow Ben Gomes said that the changes will help Google’s search engine deal with more ambiguous searches.

Gomes gave an example of a Google search for “Kings”. It could be interpreted as a search for a hockey team, a basketball team or a TV show, among other things. Under the new search, a box will appear on searches similar to this and offer users a few options to refine their search.

Gomes said the refined searches draw on something called the “Google Knowledge Graph”, essentially a database of people, places and things that Google recognizes as something more than just keywords.

The company has also built a summary entry for all 500 million pieces of information on the graph. So even when your search is fairly clear, your search result could include a little something extra — an at-a-glance box that lists facts about your search query drawn from various sources around the Web.

So an entry on Frank Lloyd Wright, Gomes said, will throw out a box that shows Google recognizes the famous architect, will show you images of his work and will even generate related suggested searches on other architects. These facts, Gomes said, are able to change based on how people are searching for a given term. In other instances, searches will throw out information such as concert dates for musicians.

The new changes won’t show up on every search — Gomes said that they’ll pop up about as often as Google Maps currently does for normal users.

Signed-in users will see the changes first, he said, though they will roll out to all Google users on all devices within a few weeks.

Although users signed in to Google services get the first taste of the new search layout, Gomes said the experience should eventually be largely the same for those signed in to Google services and those who are not.

To correct errors in the Google search box, he said, users can submit their issues with the summary boxes through a link on the summary itself. Individuals won’t be able to edit search summaries, Gomes said, though Google will pay attention to corrections.

“This is an issue of making sure we do a good job of curating information,” he said. “There are many ways to address that issue.”

He stressed that Google’s Knowledge Graph is in its early stages, but that he expects that Google will one day be able to answer more complex questions by cross-referencing data sets. So, he said, the search engine could one day be able to answer a question such as, “Where can I see Lady Gaga perform outside in warm weather?” by looking at Lady Gaga’s tour dates and matching them against the weather patterns at venues on her tour.

Google has been making several changes to its search pages, the last being the addition of personal results with “Search Plus Your World,” which drew criticism that Google was trying to unfairly promote its Google+ social network.

Gomes said that, for now, information from users’ Google profiles won’t show up in searches — such as name searches — though he expects that some data, such as Google+ profile pictures — will be available on some searches down the line.

The move also comes as Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, has launched its own new layout that pulls information from Facebook and Twitter to add more at-a-glance information to search results.

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GigaOm:How Google is growing up into a real IT company

Google facing expanded antitrust probe over social search service

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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