Google will begin to incorporate the "knowledge graph" it has been building for two years into its search results over the next few days.
The new search format will deliver context-sensitive information about the people and things users search for to the right of the conventional list of links to web pages, said Johanna Wright, Google's director of product management.
The feature will prompt users whose queries are ambiguous to indicate more precisely what they intended to ask about. For example, a user who searched for "kings" might be asked to choose between the television show, the Sacramento Kings basketball team or the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. When the user selects the relevant meaning for his or her query, the search page will eliminate results related to the other meanings. The knowledge-graph results are initially limited to American English.
Google said this week that its knowledge base has grown to 500 million entities at present, with 3.5 billion attributes of and connections between those entities.
Users who search for a person, place or thing already in Google's knowledge graph will see a panel on the right side of their search results that offers a summary of the most basic information about that query item. For instance, a search on the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright will deliver basic biographical data as well as links to particular buildings he designed. It will also point to information about similar architects.
Or, if a user searches for a musical group, the result will include discographies and potentially song samples.
The new search format is intended to improve Google's "time to result" performance, said Wright. The knowledge graph already returns answers to almost 40% of the questions users would otherwise ask next, she said, meaning users can get the same information with fewer clicks.
"We realise to take another major leap forward, we really need to understand things," Wright said. "There's a sea change moving away from words to concepts."