A fortnight ago, I commented that ‘Google deserves to enjoy a brief whiff of schadenfreud’ before Stephen Wolfram launches his computational knowledge engine in May. Well, Google appear to have pipped him to the post in the first round of Search 2.0, although the actual finishing line in the web search race is still nowhere in sight. Of course, it might not exist at all.
Google have unveiled this week, a smarter search which, according to the BBC News item ‘uses semantic web technology’. Smarter search uses any embedded metadata in a web page – metadata in RDF mark-up as well as conventional META tags – to seek and gather information related to the search query, and to display it with each hit in what they call a ‘rich snippet’. Not a Wolfram-blaster on its own. But there’s more.
Google also unveiled Google Squared, which collates information – text-based, numerical, graphical – and displays it in summary form, e.g. a table. Showing a command of smoke-and-mirrors communication rivalling that of politicians, Google spokesperson Marissa Mayer explained:
“What they are basically doing is looking for structures on the web that seem to imply facts. Like something ‘is’ something.”
“Different tables, different structures, and then corroborating the evidence around whether or not something is a fact by looking at whether that fact occurs across pages.”
That’s clear then.
Before you think the balance of schadenfreud might just have tipped back in favour of Stephen Wolfram, Google also announced Google Search Options, a feature which allows users to manipulate search results to refine them, filter them and view them in different ways until they make sense (presumably).
I’m sure these Google enhancements will prove hugely popular, and I sincerely hope Google will continue with its highly innovative approach to squeezing ever more value out of web search. But when the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’ keeps flashing up in my mind’s eye, I need to remind myself that my benchmark is enterprise search – or deep search – a different animal altogether.
But let’s look on the bright side. At least Google is at last acknowledging the value of metadata.