As Microsoft's Bing is becoming more social by adding integration with your Facebook friends, Google's search is getting smarter and sharper as the company introduces a new feature called Knowledge Graph.
The search tool, being rolled out starting Wednesday, works this way: When you type in a keyword on the Google search site, in addition to the search results you have always gotten, you'll get a box on the right that will offer you several possible related topic results to drill down to what you mean. In other words, Google said, the focus is things, not strings.
"The Knowledge Graph is about collecting information about objects in the real world," said Shashi Thakur, technical lead on the project, in the explanatory video. The near-omniscient search engine is going beyond the simple text string to map the information at the tips of its crawlers to hone your searches and give more focus, detail, breadth and depth.
Over the past couple of years, Google has been reconciling data, curated from its own virtual and real-world resources as well as from all of the available sources online, to build a database of 500 million people, places and things and of 3.5 billion defining relationships connecting them.
So, if you type in "kings," for instance, you'll get links to results for the Los Angeles hockey team, the Sacramento basketball team and the 2009 NBC television series. One you select the proper option, you launch the page with all of the relevant results.
For famous people, the box on the right rail will include photos, key facts and links to other related searches, for dynamic and serendipitous encounters as you go further into the rabbit hole of links.
If you search for a renowned painter, the search is supposed to return not only specifics about that artist, but also for others from the same school of influence.
A test search of "Barack Obama" yielded a linked photo from Obama's Google Plus page, a brief bio from Wikipedia, his birth date and place with a link for more detail on Honolulu, his net worth, his education with links to the institutions, his children's names with links to separate results, and linked titles of his books. Across the bottom of the Knowledge Graph are thumbnails for related links for Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Michelle Obama, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
If you click on Santorum, you get his primary results among the results in the main column and his nickname ("Rooster") among other details in the Knowledge Graph box.
A similar test for "The Rock" resulted in a box with details about actor Dwayne Johnson and below a box for the movie starring Sean Connery.
Knowledge Graph, it seems, could answer more specifically those niggling random trivia questions that dance in your head, and it may lead to users spending more time on the site as they click deeper and deeper into a topic.
The company said it knows the results won't always be perfect, so it invites users to offer feedback using a link at the bottom of the right-rail box.
The rollout, currently underway, includes Google's mobile search as well.