Understanding the web to find short answers and “something different”

One year ago today we announced Google Squared in Labs, an early attempt to find and extract structured data from across the web, such as a detailed table of [dog breeds] or [broadway shows]. Since then, our team in New York has steadily worked to improve quality and add new features, such as the ability to sort your data and export it to a file. In the past week, we’ve introduced two features that bring parts of Squared’s technology directly to regular search results. The first provides better answers to fact-finding queries like [independence day of india], and the second is “something different”, a special kind of search refinement in our new left-hand panel.

Better answers, with sources
Often people search to find basic facts, such as [catherine zeta-jones date of birth]. Three months ago we began using Squared technology to highlight answers for these types of searches in snippets. Today we’re expanding that effort so that when you’re looking for this kind of simple fact in search, we give you more accurate answers right at the top of your results, sourced from across the web:

If you click on the new “show sources” link, a box will slide down with websites that corroborate your answer.

The sources list includes the relevant text from each page so you can quickly verify whether the webpages seem reputable and whether our algorithms correctly interpreted the context of the answer. If you see a mistake, please let us know by clicking on the “Feedback” link so we can make it better.

You’ll find answers to millions of different fact-seeking searches because the feature relies on an algorithmic understanding of webpages, not a hand-crafted set of special sources. For example:
Often you’re looking for these kinds of quick answers when you’re out and about, so we’ve made sure the feature also works great on mobile browsers, where it can be slow and awkward to dig through multiple webpages to find an answer. Next time you’re on a date to see The Nutcracker, discreetly pull out your phone and search for [nutcracker composer] and impress him or her with your deep knowledge of ballet (and Tchaikovsky).

“Something different”
Google Squared technology also helps power one of the new features of our latest enhancement to the search results page: “Something different.” Sometimes when you search on Google, you’ll see a new section at the bottom of the left-hand panel which contains related search terms. For example, search for [zebra] and you’ll see other related searches such as [giraffes], [elephants] and [hippos]:

This can be a useful way to explore topics related to your original search. In the past, you may have seen similar search refinements at the bottom of Google search results pages under the heading “searches related to.” These queries are a great way to drill down further into a specific topic, such as [zebra facts] and [zebra pictures]. But we’ve found that when people are searching for zebras, they often search for other zoo animals as well. So just as Google Squared can put together a table of zoo animals, with “Something different” we automatically find other entities in the same category, such as gazelles and rhinos. This helps for times when you want to browse a broad topic using Google, rather than dig for a specific bit of information. You can learn more about how this works in our Help Center.

In one year, we’ve come far enough with our experimental Google Squared technology to start using it to help you both formulate your search and find exactly the information you’re looking for. While I’m happy with the progress we’ve made, there’s much more to be accomplished in this area — from searches that have multiple answers, like [us supreme court justices], to searches too complex for us to understand today, like [what major did bill clinton’s daughter study at stanford?]. We’ll continue to look for new ways to apply our deepening understanding of the web to improve your search results. Both new features will be available globally in English (something different is available now, and the improved answers feature should finish rolling out by the end of the week).