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Google Knowledge Graph straddles semantic web and Star Trek

Beyond Bing-blocking and screen-fiddling

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Google’s battle to retain search supremacy is seeing it roll something it claims will take us closer to the "computers of Star Trek".

Google has unveiled The Knowledge Graph, which it claims will give you the answers you really want, we presume instead of a bunch of useless blogs, blue links or message fragments from Wikipedia.

Rollout of the Knowledge Graph has started for US English users and will be tailored to work and display on the limited screen space of smartphones and tablets.

This is more than the standard moving about of the bits around the screen or feeding in of crowd-surfed results from Twitter or Facebook, as Google and Microsoft (with its Bing search engine), have been doing in their attempts to outdo each other in recent years.

Amit Singhal, senior vice president of engineering, reckoned Google has studied in aggregate what users have been asking Google about, to gain a better understanding of what questions are asked and the way they are being phrased.

This might mean answers can be returned even when the question is typed or phrased incorrectly and that Google will present the returns cleanly. Web-watchers already have a name for this - they call it the “the semantic web” – which drills into unstructured data to make it categorisable and searchable.

Also, Singhal said, Google has worked on its algorithms so that they can determine the relationship between “things” – again ensuring relevant data is pulled back.

On this latter point, the social graph has its roots in that other great graph of Web 2.0 – the social graph used by social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

These sift personal data and posts to link you to other people that you know and build up a comprehensive map of people. The CIA does a similar type of online digital matching to find terrorists and their unknown associates.

Singhal said: ”We’ve always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want.”

He closed: “We hope this added intelligence will give you a more complete picture of your interest, provide smarter search results, and pique your curiosity on new topics. We’re proud of our first baby step — the Knowledge Graph — which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the ‘Star Trek computer’ that I've always dreamt of building.“

It’s a grand claim and something that will get consumer tech titles and news organisations very excited, which is probably just what Google wants.

The search giant's forays outside its core market haven’t gone so well – Google Wave and Google+ being good examples – and Google killed off its Labs projects. It now sounds like the company is trying to recapture the intellectual high ground in an area where it remains strong by doing something it has already tried: improving the basic search and return process to see off Bing.

Only now it has a piece of marketing shorthand to bandy about Silicon Valley while it does this. ®

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