Start the fanfare and fire up the parade machines because Google is acting like the data-centric, speed-fetishistic machine we used to love. Search is about to get a whole lot smarter and it has nothing to do with your Google+ profile, or whatever you use to make your Internet life social. Usually when making a Google search query, a vast land of white space appears untouched on the right portion of the screen. Now, if you search for, say, Ricky Gervais, that white region is populated with useful information about the comedian/producer/director/podcaster/writer/British-man.
Google can now pull in data from over 500 million people, places, or things (read: nouns) and fill that previously white space with relevant information. The Moon? 238,900 miles away. Tom Cruise? Five foot, seven inches tall. Thomas Jefferson? Married to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson? Married twice.
The goal of Google Knowledge Graph (the running name for this feature) is to predict and provide the answer to your next question. If you’re looking for the Moon, chances are you wanted to know how far away it was. Google can now serve that to you, instantly.
Google even has the accuracy quantified in statistical precision. Joanna Wright, who is the project management director for Knowledge Graph, told The Atlantic, “Our knowledge graph is going to show you 39 percent of the answers to the next thing you might be looking for.”
Google has implemented features akin to that of a “computational engine” in the past (the ability to return weather forecasts, movie times, complex mathematical graphs, etc.) but Knowledge Engine goes one step further in that it uses noun-based language information to predict what the logical next query is. It’s the beginning of a perfect internal integration of WolframAlpha-like services into Google’s search program.
It’s radically refreshing to see Google return to making search better in a way that doesn’t depend on social mechanisms. In the last 10 months, users have watched in shock and horror as the search giant attempted to position itself into the social world and then floundered. The made draconian statements about the quality of search with their “search plus your world” initiative, and the world laughed (only to hold back the tears).
I, for one, welcome our search overlords.
Google Knowledge Graph will be available to all users within the next couple weeks.