WSJ: Google Getting Ready To Release ‘Semantic Search’ */?> WSJ: Google Getting Ready To Release ‘Semantic Search’

Posted by · March 15, 2012 2:09 pm

Not quite adjusted to the way that Google currently does search? Not to worry, suggests a new report from the Wall Street Journal, hinting that Google will be giving its search service yet another makeover in the next few months. This time around, the report indicates, Google will be making an even more concerted effort to provide searchers with direct answers and facts to answer their queries rather than a laundry list of links.

This news comes after the Journal had a chance to sit down with Google search executive Amit Singhal—as well as others allegedly familiar with the company’s plans—who spoke of a Google search that would seek to get a better idea of “how humans understand the world.” Unlike the searches of today, where “we cross our fingers and hope there’s a Web page out there with the answer,” Singhal explained, Google will be leading its users into the “next generation of search.”

Google ChromeThe WSJ article goes on to use the example of someone asking the question, “What are the 10 largest lakes in California?” Rather than simply providing links to other sites, Google’s new search service—coined “semantic search” in the report—might simply try to answer the question itself.

As for simpler searches—say the user had only entered the term “Lake Tahoe”—this new semantic search would yield critical “attributes” about the search term (Lake Tahoe’s location, weather, etc.) instead of a Wikipedia link followed by a seemingly endless list of sites that happen to talk about that term.

Google’s alleged agenda: getting people to spend more time on Google.

“As people spend more time on Google’s search site looking through its extensive ‘entity’ database,” the report continues, citing an unnamed source, “there would also be more pages, or inventory, on which to place ads.”

As a result, it is speculated that 10% to 20% (tens of billions of monthly queries) of all search queries will be affected once these alleged changes go live.

This, however, brings us to a more important question: How reliable is this information, especially the information coming from sources other than Mr. Singhal?

Responding to what he characterized as more of a PR move than anything, Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan gave readers reason to be leery of the great lengths that the Journal allowed itself to go in breaking this news—news which, it should be noted, is yet to be officially acknowledged by Google.

“My take is that Google’s pushing these technologies for some good PR, and they are in turn being blown up out of proportion to what will really happen,” wrote Sullivan. “Google’s been under intense pressure in some quarters since rolling out Search Plus Your World, pressure that its results aren’t as good as in the past. It’s helpful to counter that type of bad PR with interviews talking up forward-looking technologies. Heck, it’s right out of Bing’s playbook.”

After citing a couple examples of its Microsoft rival engaging in similar PR moves, Sullivan added, “Google’s doing some big talk of its own now, which as I said, is probably being interpreted as bigger than it really is.”

Given the pressure that’s currently on Google to follow through on its promise to wow users not only with Search Plus Your World, but with its crown jewel Google+, it’s tough not to agree with Sullivan’s perspective. As indicated by the WSJ report, it’s also difficult not to gather that Google is feeling the heat from Apple’s Siri, whose debut with the iPhone 4S clearly rattled the folks at Google and Microsoft.

That said, it’s hard to believe Google—or Microsoft for that matter—would be holding back if a major change were imminent, especially a change that stands to relieve a lot of the pressure that’s been building up on Google lately.