Photo: Ellis Hamburger, Business Insider
Google is expanding its search engine to present more answers at the top of search listings, instead of the list of links to third party Web sites that the search engine is known for.That’s according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal.
Google’s top search engineer, Amit Singhal, told the Journal that Google is getting into “semantic” search, where it will match queries with “entities” — people, places, and things.
So for example, when you ask Google a complex question like “what are the 10 largest lakes in California,” it will try to provide an answer at the top, instead of sending you off to other sites.
This isn’t new — last summer, search leader Alan Eustace told us that CEO Larry Page wants search to be more about answers presented in context. And Google already provides answers for simpler questions like “what’s the population of California?”
Serving answers also fits into Google’s new strategy of acting more like a Web portal, where people get all the information they need without leaving Google’s sites, so Google can serve all the ads.
But the idea is even older than that: Microsoft has been pitching its own search engine this way for at least the last three years.
Back when Microsoft rebranded its search engine as Bing in 2009, Microsoft executives like Yusuf Mehdi often talked about how search should be more than 10 blue links.
In fact, “more than 10 blue links” became such a catch phrase that Microsoft used it in its official boilerplate description of Bing: “People today expect more than 10 blue links on a page,” says this Microsoft press release from May 2011.
Semantic search? Also old. Microsoft also paid about $100 million to buy semantic search company Powerset in 2008, back when Bing was still called Live Search.
Bing has been lifting Google search results for years, so we suppose it’s only fair that Google should turn it around.
Still, it must be some vindication for Microsoft — even if they can’t make money with Bing, at least they forced Google to innovate.