Google is the most popular website in the world, so when Google introduces a new feature, it’s big news. Google’s new knowledge graph is big news even for Google. It marks the beginning of Google’s transformation from a search engine that provides a page of links to a knowledge engine that knows about pieces of data and their relation to each other.
The knowledge graph is Google’s attempt at semantic search. In its initial form, it’s a new sidebar that appears when Google knows about what you’re searching for. Expect this sidebar to start appearing a lot more often as Google learns about new things.
If the knowledge graph hasn’t rolled out to your country yet, you can visit the US version of Google and use it from there.
To understand the idea behind Google’s knowledge graph, check out their video. In a nutshell, the knowledge graph is an effort by Google to understand things about objects and pieces of data, and how they’re related. Before, you might search for Albert Einstein and Google would present the most relevant links on the subject. Now, Google knows that Albert Einstein is a person and can present information about him from a variety of sources.
Of course, there are other types of search queries that Google’s been able to answer in the search results for years. But the knowledge graph is a big step forward.
Understanding Search Queries
The knowledge graph can help you refine the meaning of a query. Some words mean many things, and Google can now help you narrow down the interpretation you’re looking for.
For example, the word “Onion” can refer to several things. You may be looking for the website of The Onion, information about Tor .onion websites, or information about edible onions. If you just want results about the food, you can click the “Onion” link in the sidebar. In the future, the knowledge graph will offer information about other interpretations of “Onion.”
The results for “Kings” are a great example of this in action. You can select from one of the two sports teams or the TV show with this name.
Search for something the knowledge graph knows about – for example, the name of a famous person – and you’ll see detailed information at the right side of the search results page. Much of the information here is taken from Wikipedia.
The sidebar isn’t just a disconnected block of text – it’s a starting point for extensive research. You can click any of the links here to view more information about a location, person, or book. You can keep clicking, too – once the knowledge graph has been expanded, it’ll be easy to click from page to page, learning new things. Before you know it, it’ll be four hours later – just like clicking through Wikipedia.
Finding Related Things
The “People also search for” box allows you to quickly find related things – whether they’re books, people, locations, or anything else Google knows about. This feature taps into Google’s extensive knowledge about what people search for.
Points Of Interest
Traveling somewhere? Search for your destination and you’ll see a map and information about the location, along with points of interest you might want to visit. It shows you the local time, too.
Select a point of interest and you’ll see more information about it, including its address on a map. You can click the Directions link to quickly get directions there, or keep looking for related attractions using the “People also search for” section.
For some locations, Google even knows about scheduled events. You can see upcoming events and click the links to see more information – or, perhaps, buy tickets.
The knowledge engine won’t be perfect, especially given that so much of its information comes from Wikipedia. If you see a problem with the results, you can click the “Report a problem” link at the bottom of the sidebar to tell Google exactly what’s wrong.
As the video says, the new side panel on Google is “one of the first features” related to the knowledge graph. Expect Google to roll out more features that take advantage of the knowledge graph, fill the knowledge graph’s holes, and generally get smarter over time. This information will likely be put to use to create Google’s Siri rival.
With Bing adding its own sidebar – one for Facebook integration – it’s interesting to see the two search engines diverging a bit. Of course, Bing has had a focus on being a “decision engine” for years, while Google recently introduced their own social-networking features, known as Search Plus Your World.