Launched with a lot of hype in early 2009, Google Squared, Google’s semantic search engine, failed to live up to expectations, often returning rather nonsensical results and unleashing a volley of criticism. The true power of Google Squared, which is still in Beta, lies in its ability to perform a grid search, i.e., in being able to gather and display structured data, turning the random information found on the Internet into computable data. Google Squared is very much a work in progress and Google recently announced updates to its Google Squared service that should hopefully make it more usable.
The updates include the facility of exporting the data to Google Spreadsheets, from where it can be sliced and diced to mine information. The columns have been made sortable and the default number of facts per search has been increased from 30 to 120. Squared now has the ability to learn from the modifications and corrections made by users. It seems also that Google Square has become more selective and the quality of the data has improved.
There are other companies working on the semantic web, a key one being Wolfram, the publishers of Mathematica. Wolfram’s Wolfram Alpha is a semantic search engine (Wolfram call it a computational knowledge engine) focused on scientific and mathematical applications. Alpha’s approach is to build its own database of information from what is available on the Internet and then run the queries on the database. Google Square on the other hand deals with all the data available on the Web and tries to extract meaningful information directly from it.
Both are very different approaches targeted at very different audiences. Wolfram’s approach works best for a specialized user base that is looking for reliable and vetted results in specific areas such as astronomy or physics, etc. Google Squared is aimed at the common users of the Web who are try to extract meaningful information from the reams of data available on the Net. For example, a user who wants information about dog breeds will get a table that sorts the results in different columns by breed, images, description, size, weight, etc. The semantic web is the new frontier for cutting edge search technologies and search as we know it may be rendered extinct soon by these emerging search paradigms.