May 16, 2012 -- Google might be a lot of things today -- a provider of mobile software with its Android operating system, a social network provider with Google+ -- but today it's announcing that it continues to make its core search engine better.
Google's new Knowledge Graph is a new search tool that will begin rolling out starting today. It's meant to help you find search results faster. When you now search for a popular or well-known person, place or thing, you'll get a box to the right of the results explaining more about your search term.
For instance, search for "Frank Lloyd Wright" today and the first link might be to Wikipedia. But now, to the right of that result you'll see some of that Wikipedia or other sourced information right on the search page, including a short summary of who Wright was, his birth date, etc. You'll also get related searches. If Wright were still living and a Google+ user, you'd also get his Google+ profile link.
"The knowledge graph has been constructed using a lot of reliable sources of information, including the World CIA Fact Book, Wikipedia, etc. We also collect content of our own, like Google Books," Shashidhar Thakur, Google's Tech Lead in Search, told ABC News.
Thakur said a team at Google has been working on the Knowledge Graph for two years. They have built a database with 500 million people, places and things, and there are 3.5 billion defining attributes and connections, which include those related searches and other information.
Google says you'll start seeing the Knowledge Graph box as often as you see Google Maps, making it its largest search launch ever. It says it has surpassed the launch of Google Image and Google News in terms of the data available on its first day. Obviously, the database will continue to grow.
One of the most interesting things about the Knowledge Graph is its understanding of search terms. Take the word "Kings." When you search "Kings" now it might think you're talking about the ice hockey team, the "Kings" TV show, or those medieval kings. Now the Knowledge Graph box, located to the right of the results, will give you those options. When you click one it will take to you the search results for that specific "Kings" search term, and you'll get another Knowledge Graph box -- this time with information about the specific "Kings" search.
While Google's Knowledge Graph tries to focus on reliable sources of information, the company continues to make search more social. Google has recently tied Google +, its own social network, into search results.
Google+ updates from friends now appear in search results, and Vic Gundotra, Google's senior VP of social business, has even said that Google+ is the future of Google. "In the new Google, we know your name, we understand your circles, and we make every service better," Gundotra said at SXSW in March. The Knowledge Graph will include the Google+ profiles if you search for someone who happens to be in the Knowledge Graph database and has a Google+ profile.
This week Microsoft began rolling out the newest version of its Bing search pages, which include social network information, including related Tweets and Facebook updates.
Google's Knowledge Graph feature will begin to roll out in the next few days. It will be available on regular desktop search as well as on mobile and tablet versions.