The company is now trying to incorporate this technology — but not the aesthetic — into its search engine results pages, whose front door user interface has gotten several improvements (or detriments, if you’re not a fan of change).
“Something different” was the search refinement (no longer called Search Options) in the left-hand rail that Google search product manager Nundu Janakiram discussed with me last week.
Something different will occasionally show up in the left-hand rail, displaying related search terms.
Last week, Janakiram showed me how when he searched for the query “Rolling Stones,” Google will offer other classic rock bands people associate with the Stones, including Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd.
In another example from Google, a search for “zebra” surfaces giraffes, elephants and hippos:
The idea is to get topics related to the original search, and if one were doing a research project on animals of Africa, this Squared tool would prove quite useful. Beyond that it may just get lost in the shuffle with the myriad other query refinements.
The other feature is a bit more interesting, to me anyway.
Back in January, Google started using Squared to call attention to factual answers in snippets.
Users can now get such answers right at the top of search results. Check out these results for the query “Angelina Jolie date of birth.”:
Clicking the show sources link gives me Websites that verify the answer:
And this, folks, is Google’s semantic search in action, as the technical lead for this utility John Provine noted:
“You’ll find answers to millions of different fact-seeking searches because the feature relies on an algorithmic understanding of Web pages, not a hand-crafted set of special sources.”
Provine offers more choices to illustrate Google’s semantic search chops in his blog post here.
Provine promised more features are on the way, including the ability to handle searches that have multiple answers, as well as complex searches.
I find this feature useful for basic fact finding. In time, it’s not illogical to believe Google will become a major source of Q&A as it continues to put these features in front of its large user base.