Google Semantic Search Will Add Answers To Search Results

When you perform a search on Google, two major things happen within a fraction of a nanosecond. Google parses and processes your query in its index and attempts to find a closest match or answer to your question. Second, Google tries to guess or predict the “subject” and offers answers that Google thinks you are searching for. This depends on a lot of factors which may include your previous search queries, list of visited sites, social context, interests, behavior and so forth.

Consider the following example search query:

query-example

Google thinks that I am searching for “miss”, which is a traditional honorific for unmarried women. Additionally, Google thinks that there is a chance I am searching for an album by John Mitchell. The fact however, is completely different from what Google thinks I am searching for. I am searching for the verb “miss”  which means “to fail” as in – he misses the target and turns back to the crowd.

Now you may be wondering whether Google precisely understands the words you use in your query. The short answer is No it doesn’t. Google and other search engines have no clue about the meaning of words used in the query and they don’t rely on the meaning  alone for fetching results. However, what is important is the context of the query, whether the words used in a query have something in common or whether they imply a question whose answer (closest match) is already available in the index. When you search for “tear”, Google can only “predict” whether you are looking for a waterly fluid or the ripping apart of something by force.

Here is another example search which shows how crowd sourcing affects Google search results to a great extent.

another-example-search

When I typed “make money” in Google search box, Google assumes that I am someone who wants to make money online. There are a thousands ways of making money, but Google thinks (and predicts) that this guy is looking for online money making ideas. In reality, I am looking for the novel by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld series. Unless I use the identifier “novel” in this context, Google will assume something based on what millions of other users are searching for and show the same results to me.

Then we have a SPY world to consider which introduces a social mix in regular Google search results, showing you relevant content and information from your social circles. But not everyone is using Google Plus, which at this moment is nothing but a virtual ghost town used by only Google employees (and of course Robert Scoble).

Hence the Plan B.

In coming months, Google is all set to radically change the search mechanism with a novelty called “Semantic search”. According to a report from Wall Street Journal, Google will soon implement its semantic search technology to the search filter, which will analyze the meaning of words typed into the search box. Based on the meaning and context of words and phrases, Google will provide answers directly on the SERP page, instead of throwing a list of webpages, maps, ads or links.

The current keyword and Pagerank based ranking system isn’t going anywhere but I believe we are entering an age where results are not ranked merely by Pagerank authority. Google fellow Amit Singhal told WSJ that semantic search will process information by understanding the actual meaning of words. An excerpt from the post:

Google search will look more like “how humans understand the world”. For many searches today, we cross our fingers and hope there’s a web page out there with the answer. Some major changes will show up in the coming months, Google is undergoing a years-long process to enter the “next generation of search.”

Mind you, Google already provides answers to simple questions e.g the population of India, the capital of Australia and the author of The Tempest, so there is nothing new here. But according to the WSJ report, semantic search will tightly integrate with Google search, offering answers and close suggestions that are contextually relevant.

This can mean a lot of things, other than just plain answers. If someone performs a search for a famous singer or a band, Google might show all the music albums and DVD’s of the current artist on the search result page itself. This can be disastrous for sites who rely only on the long tail of search, buy tons of links for a specific keyword and lure users to their affiliate commission sales page. For if users find all the music albums of a particular artist directly on Google.com, they surely won’t click the fourth result on the SERP page.

On another note, this can be the false front for a forthcoming war on Apple’s Siri, remember Google Majel? Eric Schimdt has already declared Siri as a competitive threat to Google’s mobile search so this move completes the equation.

There is another guy with the same label of “an answer search engine”. Bing.

Well done Google, I remember they copied your results way back.

The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be only sustainable competitive advantage. ~ how true!

Apple’s Tablet Market Share Hit by Kindle Fire in Q4 2011

If you were wondering how much the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire impacted Apple’s dominance in the tablet market, IDC has the answer for you. According to its figures, Apple’s tablet market share dropped to 54.7% in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is much lower than it ws in the previous quarter. Apple’s market share dropped from 61.5% to 54.7%, while Android saw its market share rise from 32.3% to 44.6%.

A total of 28.2 million tablets were shipped globally in Q4 2011, of which 4.7 million were Kindle Fire units, and 15.4 million were iPads. After Apple and Amazon came Samsung, which shipped around 1.6 million units.

However, shipment figures don’t really tell you the complete story. Apple has the highest profit margins in the industry, and probably made more profit by selling one iPad, than Amazon made by selling 20 Kindle Fire units.

Besides, we expect the tide to turn back in Apple’s favor in the first half of 2012, as Apple starts shipping “The New iPad”. In Q3 2012, we should also see Microsoft start to make headway in the tablet market with Windows 8. Google’s rumored Nexus tablet could also help Android gain some additional market share. 2012 is going to be a crucial year for all players in the tablet market. My money, however, is on Apple… and maybe even Microsoft.

Rumor: Google to Launch 7 inch Android Tablet with Asus

Everyone and his grandmother has heard this rumor by now, which states that Google is apparently working on a 7 inch Android tablet to capture market share in the budget tablet space and prevent Amazon, as well as Chinese manufacturers, both of which it has no real control over, from dominating the space.

Even though the rumor has been reported by Digitimes, whose track record could inspire a sequel to “Dumb and Dumber”, it does seem to be a likely move by Google. Android tablets have been getting slaughtered in any price point even remotely close to the iPad, mostly because of one reason – they suck.

If Google wants to enter the tablet space and gain market share, it would have to use a similar strategy to the one it used in the smartphone market – targeting the budget conscious consumers.

According to the rumor, Google is working with Asus to launch a 7 inch tablet (we’re not sure whether it will be christened the Nexus Tablet) which will be priced at $199 to $249.

Apparently, Google chose Asus because HTC wasn’t willing to impair its brand image with cheap tablets, Acer didn’t have the in-house R&D capability, and Samsung can’t seem to design any tablet which doesn’t look like a rip-off of the iPad (OK, the last part may not really be the reason why it didn’t choose Samsung, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind).

The Google-Asus tablet will presumably run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and will be the first tablet to use the Google Play Store which was unveiled earlier this week.

Google and Motorola Ordered to Give Android Data to Apple

Google and Motorola have been ordered by a U.S. judge to turn over information about the Android O.S. development to Apple. Additionally, they must also reveal information about the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google. The decision was related to a patent lawsuit which was filed against Motorola by Apple in 2010.

“The Android/Motorola acquisition discovery is highly relevant to Apple’s claims and defenses,” said Apple’s attorneys.

Motorola has opposed the request, saying that Google isn’t directly involved in the lawsuit, and it cannot force Google to produce these documents.

“Google’s employees and documents are not within the ‘possession, custody, or control’ of Motorola, and Motorola cannot force Google to produce documents or witnesses over Google’s objections,” said Motorola’s lawyers.

Google supposedly acquired Motorola to strengthen its defense against patent trolls and competitors who are trying to force Google and its partners into submission in the form of patent licensing agreements. However, it seems that Google’s move has backfired, with it getting dragged further in Motorola’s own patent troubles.

I’m not sure if Apple is merely trolling Motorola and Google, or if the requested information is indeed critical to the lawsuit, but it would be really funny if it was the former. For now, the patent wars seem to be getting more interesting.

Google Releases Official Android Design Stencils; Drang & Drop Your Way To Beautiful Android Apps

With Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Google’s main motive was to make the whole OS look beautiful. The company wanted to get rid of the “clunky/ugly UI” tag that is associated with Android. With ICS, the company has been successful in creating an OS that is not only functional, but also looks beautiful.

However, a beautiful OS is only part of the story. Majority of the Android apps still look as ugly as Harvey Dent’s face in The Dark Knight. For the first time in Android’s history, Google released set of guidelines, took some steps to create a unified experience and a website dedicated to creating beautiful apps for Android. From a developer point of view, Android Design was a great place to start and know the required steps to create a beautiful looking Android app. Sadly, Google for some strange reason did not release stencils that would make the job of developers a hell lot easier, and save them quite a few hours of work as well.

With the requests to release stencils bombing Google everyday, the big G today finally updated the Android Design website to add stencils. This will allow developers to simply drag and drop their way to creating beautiful Android apps. At the moment, the stencils are available for popular designing apps like Adobe Fireworks and Omni OmniGraffle. The source files for the icons are also available for download. Interested Android app developers can get more information and download link of the stencils here.

Rumor: Google May Launch Android 5.0 Jelly Bean in Q2 2012

Google may launch the next version of Android – Android 5.0 Jelly Bean – in Q2 2012, according to the latest report by Digitimes’ sources in Taiwan.

According to the report, Android 5.0 will be further optimized for tablets and Google will also integrate features from Chrome in it. It will also provide some option to manufacturers to use only Android 5.0 as a standalone OS, or use it as a dual boot option along with Windows 8 devices.

Though Digitimes has a very bad track record when it comes to scoops, some of them have turned out to be true. Given Google’s Android release history, it wouldn’t surprise me if Google unveiled the next version of Android at its Google I/O 2012 event in Q2 2012.

Android 4.0 was launched only around the end of 2011, and is still present only on around 1% of all Android devices. Given that it was a major release, I wouldn’t expect Android 5.0 so soon.

The report suggests that Google will be optimizing Android 5.0 primarily to compete with Windows 8, which will see Microsoft’s entry in the tablet market.

Android is currently struggling to compete in the tablet market, which is dominated by Apple’s iPad. Apple will be launching the iPad 3 in March 2012.

Googorla One Step Closer To Reality!

Back in August last year, Google announced that it would be buying Motorola for $12.5 billion in cash. The news surprised nearly everyone in the tech industry, and no one really saw it coming. After all, why would a search, advertising and a mobile OS giant like Google buy a hardware company like Motorola? Is Google going to finally enter the mobile phone hardware business?

Over the next few weeks, Google cleared most of the confusion and stated that it will be running Motorola totally as a separate business entity. The company also clearly stated that it won’t be favoring Motorola or any other company, when it comes to choosing  a company to manufacture its Nexus handset. However, the deal had to clear three major hurdles – approval from the EU, the U.S. and the Chinese anti-trusts – before Google could fully own Motorola.

Yesterday, the deal reached two steps closer to its goal as both the E.U and the U.S anti-trusts gave the deal a green signal. Once, and if the Chinese anti-trusts give the Google-Motorola deal a greens signal, Google will fully own Motorola Mobility.

Hopefully, this deal between the two companies will lead to a betterment of Android as an OS, and Motorola as a handset manufacturer.

(Source)

 

Indian Government Won’t Censor Social Media: Sibal

internet-censhorship-indiaIf you can’t fight criticism, confiscate the medium.  This is Indian government’s motto in fighting “aggressive political and religious thoughts” of Indian internet users. The campaign went beyond common sense, ordering Internet behemoths to remove objectionable content following court orders. Despite sound arguments from Facebook and Google India officials, Indian government asked 22 Internet companies to remove inflammatory material before February 6th 2012.

Google India responded quickly from a technical flank – permanently redirecting all blogspot blogs in India to a .in TLD. The search giant can thus easily fetch the alleged “inappropriate content” to users across the globe, while the same page can be blocked for Indian users only. This is equivalent to curbing free speech and by no means, adheres to democracy.

While everyone awaits the official words from 22 Internet companies before February 22nd 2012, Indian Telecom minister Kapil Sibal, has now said that social websites in India would not face censorship.

“I want to say once and for all, without any obfuscation, no government in India will ever censor social media,” Telecom minister Kapil Sibal said, while inaugurating the three-day Nasscom India Leadership Forum today. “I never wanted to censor social media and no government wants to do so. But like the print and electronic media, they have to obey the laws of the country,” he added.

Late 2011, Mr. Sibal, along with Indian cyber experts, were in talks with Facebook and Google India officials to discuss the possibility of pre-screening user generated content. The government showed executives obscene and vulgar images defaming religious leaders, politicians, which could ignite communal riots or lead to social chaos. Mr Sibal had shown journalists illustrations that portrayed congress leader Mrs Sonia Gandhi and present Indian prime minister Mr. Manmohan Singh in compromising positions, as well as a site showing pigs running through Islam’s holy city of Mecca.

Despite the logical response that neither the search engine nor the social network actually “produces the content”, 19 internet firms were targeted under civil cases in New Delhi high court, holding them responsible for the content available on their platforms.

According to the laws of the land, all internet companies operating in India are obliged by law to hand over user information to government authorities. But how all the user generated content should be monitored and what type of content is considered inappropriate, remains a subject waiting to be finalized. A real time internet monitoring system for all Indian users? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Image credit

Google’s “Funny” Algorithm Can Measure Laughter. Well, Sort Of.

YouTube has an interesting comedy slam page where users can compare two videos and vote the one which appeals to them. YouTube slam, which is categorized into music, comedy, bizarre and cute, is sort of a never ending addictive game where you watch bizarre videos and vote the ones you find interesting, funny or humorous. You get nothing out of this, except a mention as a top voter on the slam leaderboards.

But have you ever wondered how Google measures which video is funnier, which one is bizarre and which one is cute? What are the signals Google counts when ranking videos in the YouTube slam page?

youtube-comedy-slam

Unlike textual content, Google and other search engines can’t “read” the content of a video or see through it. The only way a bot can have some clue about a video is its associated metadata, the title tags, description, anchor text, links from other domains, user comments and so forth. This mechanism is often, not so accurate and can be quirked for selfish reasons.

Coming to how YouTube ranks videos in slam pages, a Google researcher admitted that there is an algorithm which tries to measure the degree of laughter associated with a video. The algorithm is not entirely driven by view counts or mere votes because of the fact that human feelings are subjective in nature. What appears humorous to one age group might be a complete turn off for another.

youtube-commentsThe funny thing is that the algorithm tries to extract “textual laughter” from the comments section of a YouTube video. Words such as “hahaha”, “hehehe”, “jajaja”, “kekeke” in user comments counts as a strong signal towards the humorous nature of a video. This algorithm also considers web acronyms such as LOL, ROFL or LMAO and emoticons e.g :D, ;-) xP.

Google trains classifiers to identify funny videos and finds the reason why this video is funny and to what category or genre this video may belong to. The ranking algorithm is strongly driven by human reaction and their emphasis on emotions e.g a looooooool  is considered a stronger signal than a lol because of the elongation which reflects the viewer’s emphasis. Here is what Google says:

We noticed that viewers emphasize their reaction to funny videos in several ways: e.g. capitalization (LOL), elongation (loooooool), repetition (lolololol), exclamation (lolllll!!!!!), and combinations thereof. If a user uses an “loooooool” vs an “loool”, does it mean they were more amused? We designed features to quantify the degree of emphasis on words associated with amusement in viewer comments. We then trained a passive-aggressive ranking algorithm using human-annotated pairwise ground truth and a combination of text and audiovisual features. Similar to Music Slam, we used this ranker to populate candidates for human voting for our Comedy Slam.

Now they are judging candidates for YouTube slam by how many “lols” are written underneath a video? Like this video which got more than 3000 comments and 1,566,000 views but it’s not funny!

Hey Chrome User, Now You Can Sell Your Private Browsing Data To Google.

google-dataSome people are going to go crazy with this.

Google is about to launch a new “get paid to surf” program where you can earn some incentives by trading your browsing habits and sending usage statistics to Google. Termed as Google Screenwise, the program will track your usage behavior in Google Chrome through a browser extension (pending official announcement). This is Google’s wild attempt to learn browsing habits of users in mass and create a better online experience for everyone. At least, the landing page at www.google.com/landing/screenwisepanel/ says so.

The monetary compensation is not direct hard cash, as panel members will receive the money via Amazon gift cards. As a panelist, you will get $5 for installing the Screenwise extension and a recurring fee of $5 will be paid every 3 months, provided you keep sending them your Chrome usage data and keep the extension installed.

If $25 sounds too meager, hang on for a year. The landing page has a tiny remark at the bottom which says – “As we continue to develop this research experience, we will evaluate what, if any, changes will be made to gifts amounts for continuing participation beyond 12 months.”

Speaking of data, Google isn’t saying what the company intends to track. Usage behavior can mean a lot for savvy users who spend 8 hours a day inside a browser. Not to forget the new unified privacy policy of Google, which will combine information you’ve provided in various Google services such as Blogger, YouTube, web search, Gmail and so forth.

I am curious to know why Google is becoming data hungry day by day. They have Google Chrome, Gmail, Android, YouTube – the best players in each department. Sure this is not enough, as they are willing to pay you for your data, browsing habits and privacy. This is the easiest 25$ a year offer I won’t regret turning down.

If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer but the product being sold. And If you’re getting something for free and managing some cash along with it, you’re what? Probably, Google knows the exact term.

Thanks Matt. Image via Geekandpoke.