John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Google: I Know What You’re Thinking


“Google does have to be all things to all people. Our search does not need to be all things to all people.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, March 20, 2009

Looks like Microsoft (MSFT) just lost the sole advantage its CEO Steve Ballmer claimed it had over Google in search: the ability to experiment. The search sovereign made two changes to its search results pages Tuesday that it says will produce better results for complicated searches.

The first is a simple one: extending the length of site description for longer search queries. The second, however, is a bit more complex. Google (GOOG) is adding semantic search capabilities to its engine, an enhancement it claims will allow it to better understand the concepts and relationships associated with a query. “We’re deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search, and one of its first applications lets us offer you even more useful related searches,” Ori Allon, from Google’s Search Quality Team, explained in a post to the company blog. “For example, if you search for [principles of physics], our algorithms understand that ‘angular momentum,’ ‘special relativity,’ ‘big bang’ and ‘quantum mechanic’ are related terms that could help you find what you need.”

Essentially, Google has tweaked its engine to detect when a particular search is related to other concepts that don’t necessarily contain the same words as a query. It’s given the engine a sort of conceptual understanding. And that may well keep users on Google longer because they’ll be able to find relevant information about their queries without having to click through to a second site. Certainly a significant improvement and one that shows that contrary to Steve Ballmer’s claims, Google continues to experiment and innovate.

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— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle