Google LogoFacebook, Facebook, Facebook. That’s the online story that has dominated the news for the past week. “Facebook shares are going on sale, we can all get rich,” rapidly turned into wails of dismay as the Internet titan’s stocks began to devalue almost immediately.

Meanwhile, Google was stealthily introducing something big… Oliver Marks at ZDNet has commented on that recently:

While Facebook’s founders extracted large sums of money from the retail public markets on the much promoted promise of ‘Social’ in very dubious circumstances, Google quietly started launching ‘the knowledge graph’ across computers, smartphones and tablets this month, the next generation of search with links to different sets of results based on contextual meanings for any given search term, with additional information based on popular related queries.

In simple terms, Google will now be producing extra results that are based on common searches or the term you’re looking for. If you search for a place, basic data like population, climate, etc., will appear as part of the contextual results.

This is obviously something Google has been angling towards for awhile. Marks takes note:

Google bought Metaweb and their Freebase entity graph of people, places and things, which relies on population by the open data community, back in July 2010, and this infrastructure forms a large part of the next gen Google search capabilities. I wrote about the Freebase Parallax search engine way back in August 2008 and it’s fascinating to see this thinking now become a core part of Google’s search.

Semantic networks were all the rage back in the 1970s and the ’80s. Then, in the mid-80s, neural networks became fashionable, and semantic networks were mostly ignored or back-burnered. Now we have come full circle. Google is the master of finding the relationships between isolated pieces of data, and now the semantic structure of those relationships will be changing the game of online search.

I think Gary Marcus at The New Yorker hits the nail on the head when he says:

Now, Google is becoming something else, a rapprochement between nativism and empiricism, a machine that combines the great statistical power empiricists have always yearned for with an enormous built-in database of the structured categories of persons, places, and things, much as nativists might have liked.

With each revision of its search routines and APIs, Google is taking quiet but huge steps. Just look at how many SEO professionals are tearing their hair out every few weeks as a result.

Between the recent integration of social signals into search, the launch of Google+, and any number of Panda revisions, Google has been taking the search industry on a wild ride over this past year. As it continues to consolidate the company’s online properties and refine its algorithms, I would bet it will get a whole lot wilder.

Google Glass, anyone?

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