Search is a never-ending story. A search engine is never done fine-tuning the way they get their results to you in a way that makes sense for them and for you. First, Google was all about digging through loads of information to find what you need, but now, AI increasingly helps them make sense of our world in all its complex glory. Here’s what’s coming soon as presented in yesterday’s Google Search On event.
What is search in 2020?
Google has come a long way since that old algorithm of ranking pages Sergei Brin and Larry Page introduced in 1998. At that time, though, the internet was just starting and it was a much simpler place. What’s more, the world itself was a much simpler place. Today, many of the things we take for granted are being questioned as some people continue to sow distrust and spread rumours, fake news and ‘alternative facts’.
In 2020, information is everywhere, and it’s available on more platforms and devices than ever. A search engine in 2020 is no longer a tool to find an answer to your question, but also a window to the world. Search is text, search is visual, search is voice — and search is moving into the third dimension with AR. A search engine is also a provider of important information regarding world events like COVID-19 and the US elections.
A search engine in 2020 is looking to understand the world at a level not seen before. New layers are being added to the knowledge graph to help understand knowledge, respond with valuable responses and present increasingly complex material to the searcher. Data set search with graphs made especially for your search? You got it. Understanding atoms by projecting a 3D model on your kitchen table? Of course, why not? Humming that song you have stuck in your head to find out what it is? Maybe a niche thing, but you can.
Increasingly, search is a combination of the offline and online world. This was one of the things that stood out at yesterday’s Google Search On event.
All of this starts with a thorough understanding of language. A while back, Google launched an incredible new NLP technology called BERT. BERT is unique, because it considers the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it. This helps Google understand the intent behind searches. BERT was launched to great success and will now be used for almost every search in the English language, with many languages following.
Google also introduced the biggest improvement of their spelling algorithm in the last five years. They’ve built a deep neural net that gives them more power to decipher more complex misspellings and present the corrections in record time.
Search isn’t all about finding a page that completely answers your search query. Sometimes, what you want is an answer to a question so specific that it’s merely hinted to on a page. To help find those needles in a haystack, Google will now start ranking passages from pages and make these available in the search engine. By analyzing these separately, Google can answer an even broader set of answers. This is targeted at a fairly small number of searches, about 7%.