GOOGLE is to add more context to search results, in a bid to understand ‘what you mean’ and provide instant answers.
The changes, which roll out in America first and then around the world, will see different options for search queries grouped into likely sets of possibilities.
Writing on the Google Search Blog, Google’s Amit Singhal said that, for instance, the site would now know that a question on the Taj Mahal could be about the Indian mausoleum, the musician or a local restaurant.
The so-called Knowledge Graph will make the site's algorithms act "more human", added Mr Singhal.
Earlier this week rival search engine Bing announced that it was going to start to provide information based on a user’s social connections too. Both sites are trying to go beyond the established list of links to other websites. Google’s method will try to provide more information directly on its own pages, and could mean users spend more time on sites where Google derives revenue from advertising. The site previously added personalised results via a programme called 'Search Plus Your World'.
Mr Singhal said that matching keywords rather than understanding context was no longer enough.
The Knowledge Graph uses approximately 3.5 billion different attributes to organise results. That will allow Google to provide, for instance, specific summary boxes on results related to prominent individuals. A new layout will use space on the right-hand side of Google’s search results page to display the information more effectively, and the experience will be optimised separately for tablets and smartphones.
“The information we show for Tom Cruise answers 37 percent of next queries that people ask about him,” claimed Mr Singhal.
A separate new feature will add a list of subjects “people also search for”.
Mr Singhal described the move as a “first baby step” to building a Star Trek-style computer that provides answers. Apple has already started to integrate results from the Wolfram Alpha service, which provides verified results based on data from reputable sources such as the World Health Organisation.