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Google is changing its search engine in order to bring it up-to date with current technology and maintain its dominant market share.

Google’s search engine will present more facts and figures in direct answers to the requests from users at the top of the search results page, over the coming months. Google is not replacing its current keyword –search system, which shows results based on the words contained within a website and how often other sites link to it and dozens of other measures.  The company is aiming to give more relevant results by using semantic search technology, this refers to the actual meaning of the words and can differentiate between words with more than one meaning, such as the car brand ‘Jaguar’ and the animal ‘jaguar’.

Amit Singhal, a top Google search executive, said in a recent interview that the search engine will better match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of “entities” – people, place and things – which the company has been quietly amassing over the past few years.  Semantic search will help associate different words with one another, such as a company – Google with its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

With the new search engine users who search for “Lake Tahoe” will see key details that the search engine knows about the lake – such as its location, altitude, depth, average temperature.  With the current search engine users today will only get links to the lake’s visitor bureau website, its dedicated page on Wikipedia .com and a link to a relevant map.

In order to provide answers that are not in Google’s extensive database already, the search engine will blend new semantic-search technology with its current system to better recognise the value of information on websites and decide which ones to show the user.  It will do this by examining the Web page and identifying information about specific entities referenced on it rather than only looking for keywords.

This change could have major implications for Google, which leads the internet search market with around a 66% market share and more than 75% of all search-ad revenue.  Google has succeeded because of the strength and ease of its keyword-search technology, which in turn leads to Google’s search ads which appear next to their search results, which generates a huge amount of revenue for Google.

 Some semantic-search experts believe the move will help Google to keep up with Facebook and other social networking sites. Google also hopes the change to semantic search will entice some people to stay longer on the search site amid competition with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that are claiming more Internet users’ time.

For instance, people who search for a particular novelist like Ernest Hemingway could, under the new system, find a list of the author’s books they could browse through and information pages about other related authors or books, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. Presumably Google could suggest books to buy, too.

Google says it is still tinkering with the new look and function of its search engine, so it’s unclear exactly what this might mean for Google users and website owners. But the move could spur millions of websites to retool their Web page—by changing what’s called a “markup language”—so the search engine could more easily locate them under the new system.

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