Google announced its rollout of the Knowledge Graph Wednesday morning, a new feature that incorporates into search results a profile of the person, place, or even Justin Bieber song (as the case may be) in question. Beginning today, English-language queries will present the user with a summary of the information on the searched-for topic in a panel that floats to the right of the search results. It will also attempt to clarify when more than one set of search results is available in response to a query by asking if by “Andromeda,” you meant the galaxy, TV series, or Swedish progressive metal band. Google says that it has already embedded Knowledge Graph-based panels in 500 million ‘objects’ under topics ranging from sports teams to spacecraft.
It’s the delivery on the company’s earlier promises to begin implementing new “semantic” algorithms that aim to improve search experience by automatically linking related concepts. For example, a search for Marie Curie reveals a photo of the scientist, as well as a short summary of her accomplishments and miscellaneous facts such as her dates of birth and death, family members, discoveries and education. Below these is also a list of other scientists queried by users Googling Curie. A search for Frank Lloyd Wright shows results for structures associated with the architect, as well as related contemporaries such as Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.
The Knowledge Graph additions are the result of a two-year effort to painstakingly collect and acquire information that began with Google’s 2010 purchase of Metaweb and its Freebase fact database. The acquisition gained the search giant a trove of 22 million fact ‘entities’ – each of which represents a single person, place or thing. Since then, Google has been expanding the database, using information obtained from Wikipedia, The CIA World Factbook, and its own collection of Google Books content, as well as licensing data from other sources, growing the index to more than 200 million entities.
It’s a move with fairly staggering long-term implications for search, but for now, the machinations of the Knowledge Graph are evident mainly in the appearance of the summary panels that show up in search results, and it’s clear that Google views it as a work in progress. “We’re in the early phases of moving from being an information engine to becoming a knowledge engine, and these enhancements are one step in that direction,” said product management director Johanna Wright in Google’s promotional video for the Knowledge Graph.
While plans to launch in other languages are in the works, at the moment, only English-language Google searches will trigger Knowledge Graph-related results. The summary panels also do not contain embedded media – such as videos – or actionable results (such as links for purchasing concert tickets for Andromeda), unlike Microsoft’s search engine Bing, which announced its relaunch last week. When asked about actions in an interview, head of Google Search, Amit Singhal replied, “We will, of course, explore that, but right now, we just want to take it out and see how it works.”