Google is in the middle of one of the biggest overhauls to its search engine in years, trying to fight off growing competition from Microsoft's Bing, Apple's Siri, Facebook, and others by incorporating more real-life language concepts, reports the Wall Street Journal. The changes will be implemented over the next few months and could change search-result rankings for millions of websites, but also provide Google with more opportunities for advertising and increase the time users spend on Google-owned pages.
Driving much of this change is Google's 2010 purchase of startup Metaweb Technologies, which organizes information by "entities"—that is people, places, and things—instead of just words and websites, which can be more ambiguous. Under the new algorithm, searching for a geographical body could bring up a whole range of data about that place, in addition to the usual related websites from, say, the local chamber of commerce or Wikipedia. The function also should be able to answer specific questions more precisely. Google would not comment directly, but one insider estimated the changes could affect up to 20% of searches.