Google 3.0: Semantic search

Mountain View (CA) – If you aren’t following changes in search technology, you could have almost missed today’s announcement from Google – which seems to be insignificant at first, but at a closer look a dramatic improvement that effectively rings in Google 3.0.

The original Google was good enough to fend of rivals until 2007, when the company announced its first major improvement called Universal Search. Back then, the company combined its search silos – text, images, videos, shopping and others – but already hinted at a future feature called contextual search. Contextual search, commonly referred to as semantic search, links related topics to better predict what users may be looking for.

This contextual search is now live and includes algorithms that Google claims understand what other search terms may be useful to understand users, queries and content. At least in theory, search results should be broader and, in Google speak, more universal. There was no information how the company’s page ranking will be impacted by the additional search results that will now be provided.

While Google said that semantic search is now available in 37 language versions of Google, a previously described feature the company has been working on is not available – contextual search across different languages, or, as Google calls it, “cross-language information retrieval.” In 2007, Google said that this feature will translate search queries in twelve different languages and return search results from websites in those twelve languages to provide a more comprehensive search experience. Google did not say when this feature will become available.

There are, however, two other minor improvements – a better handling of more complex search queries as well as the display of longer snippets in search results.