Google this week announced the launch of their brand new "Knowledge Graph", a move to make Google search results increasingly more responsive - not just to semantics, but to understand the ambiguity of searches.
Search for a term on the web that has dual or even multiple meanings, and previous search results would simply display whatever the most popular option was as a result of their algorithmic workings. Because of the weight of links and anchor text within those algorithms, listings would prioritise the Adobe Acrobat homepage on searches for "Click here" (though quite who would search for that is anyone's guess), and more famously the Disney site on searches for "Exit" (essentially due to a host of porn sites' Are you 18? messages linking the Disney site to an exit button...so I'm reliably told). Now Google are making moves to share that authority a little wider.
Take "Apple" for example. If one searches for that, the probability is that Apple.com is what you're looking for, but who's to say it isn't the Beatles famous label "Apple Corps" or even the basic fruit that you want information on? Google wants to point you in the right direction.
So what are Google doing to help? One way is through simple alternative box offering alternative options. For example "Taj Mahal":
Fair enough, but perhaps a little more sinister comes the immediate information offered on searches for celebrities:
Hmm. Wikipedia surely aren't going to like that too much? Effectively Google are algorithmically taking the information from a range of sites and putting it on a plate for a reader. They've been doing this for more obvious search terms for a while (typing the capital of Gabon gives the answer as Libreville immediately in results, but you knew that already), but it's about to get more common. Potentially what this means is that Google are taking ad revenue away from sites whilst taking their data...perhaps a bit controversial, but of course great for the user!
What do you think? Are sites like Dictionary.com and Biography.com next in Google's crosshairs? Are Google trying to help users, or simply trying to increasingly self-contain users within the Google platform? Time may well tell...