Google is apparently getting ready for one of the biggest overhauls to its search engine in the company's history. Google executive Amit Singhal told The Wall Street Journal that the new search function will work more like "how humans understand the world" by employing semantic search technology.
The plan isn't necessarily to move away from the current keyword-search system, which determines the relevance of a website based on the words it contains, how often other sites link to it, and other measures.
However, rather than just spitting out a list of blue web links, Google will try to present more facts and direct answers at the top of the search-results page by matching queries with a huge database of "entities".
These entities include people, places, movies, books and a lot more. The starting point for this database was reportedly provided through Google's acquisition of 'knowledge graph' company Metaweb (developer of Freebase) in 2010, but Google has since expanded the size of the index from around 12 million entities to more than 200 million. The search giant will use this to try and understand the meaning of searches, a la Wolfram Alpha.
The first changes will reportedly roll out over the next few months, but according to Cnet there is not a specific timeline and the full makeover to "next generation of search" could take years.
In other words, it probably won't be such a drastic change as the WSJ article makes it to be but rather more of a continuation of the efforts Google has been making for years on this front to stay ahead of competitors like Bing, which also provides some direct answers to users' queries, and now to minimize the potential threat of Siri, which sends a big chunk of the voice searches people are doing to sites like Yelp and Wolfram Alpha.