What is the Google Knowledge Graph?
On Wednesday, Google debuted its latest development in its key strength, Search. Enter the Google Knowledge Graph, or in their own words “things, not strings”
In an effort to make search smarter, and make Google your one stop shop for information gathering, Google have introduced Knowledge Graph as an augmentation of the traditional search. They call it a move from being an “information engine” to being a “knowledge engine”.
This move by Google was given a kick start back in 2010, when Google purchased Metaweb and their free and open metadata database, Freebase. Freebase differs from a traditional database in the way it is structured. Instead of using tables and keys to define data, it uses a node / link structure. Data stored about a subject is classified by structured category and links are created between these nodes allowing more complex relationships to be recognised than would be possible in a conventional database.
For practical purposes, what this means is that when you search for a “thing” that Google knows you will now see a detailed summary in a right hand side panel, collating information around your key search term. This information is pulled together using public sources like Freebase, Wikipedia, the CIA World Factbook and other Google streams like Google Local and Google Maps.
The idea here is that Google is trying to get you closer to what you are actually looking for. For example, say you want to know more about that straggly haired comedian who works with Dylan Moran, but you don’t know his name. A search will bring you the usual list of results but you now also see a panel on the right hand side with a photo, biographical information and then links to Moran’s significant works and, other people related to him – the first person who pops up? Bill Bailey. And you can click on him to find out more.
As someone who would consider herself a fairly advanced user of search, at least in terms of using the various modifers to refine search results, I can see this as something that could bring around a huge change in the way people gather information. Crucially for Google, it means that people looking for facts in a fairly casual way no longer have to leave Google at all. I tried a quick search for the tallest building in the world and up popped Burj Khalifa, a map of where it is, how tall it is, who were the architects, etc. Guess what? No more need to click that Wikipedia link on the left.
Certainly I think this is a positive change from Google. After all, over the last few years we’ve seen some less than successful product roll-outs from them. Of course, this isn’t exactly Google sticking its neck out, it’s definitely proof that they are able to develop on their core strength.