It is beginning to look like the next Google could be, well, Google. Or at least Google is aware of the threat semantic search engines pose to its keyword-based searches, and the company is doing something about it.
Google today announced it is adding semantic search capabilities to its engine, allowing it to provide a more useful list of related search terms along with the specific results of the keyword search.
Semantic search aims to improve search results by associating related terms and, hopefully, using them to return more useful results. That is especially important for Google, whose results have seemed to become less useful over time.
Some of the decline in search quality is a result of the number of people who have figured out how to game the system and spoof their way into top positions, but it is also because entering keywords is not a great way to search complex information. Nor is it a good way to pose conceptual questions to a search engine. The ongoing increase in the amount of information on the Web also makes searching more difficult.
Semantic search, by making an attempt to understand the meaning of a search phrase or question, is seen by many experts as the next step in making Web-based information more accessible.
Entrepreneurs also see it as the crack in Google's armor that might allow a smart and fast new company to do what Google did to its predecessors and build a new search empire. Of course, Google's real innovation was associating search with advertising, but that is a different issue.
While Google is formidable, there is still much that could be done to make search results more useful. Semantic search is a powerful tool, but Google could also improve the filtering it uses today to improve the quality of its results.
It is not a given that Google will remain the Google of search forever. Microsoft has made an acquisition in the semantic space and has spent many years doing its own linguistic research. Venture money has been flowing this way for years.
Google said it sees semantics as part of a total search solution, to be used along with its traditional keyword searches. Is this true or a large company posing in an attempt to stall the market just a bit?
Fast forward a bit and we might move into a Web where semantics are built right into the information we create. This is the realm of the Semantic Web, which is just how Tim Berners-Lee seems to envision the future of his invention.
Anyone who has ever been frustrated by search results or the general difficulty of finding what you need in the vast ocean of information should be happy about Google's announcement, thrilled that new competitors are pushing semantic search forward, and at least pondering what a future Semantic Web means for all of us.
David Coursey says a good day is any day that Google doesn’t lead him astray. Send your comments or oddest search results to him using the contact form located at www.coursey.com/contact.