Google has started dishing out factual answers for some queries at the top of its results page, thus sparing click-weary users the hassle of navigating to other sites to look up the information.
For example, if a user keen to discover more about the greatest country in the world enters the query, “what is the capital of Wales”, Google will serve up the first paragraph from a wikipedia feature on Cardiff, along with a link to the originating page.
Typing in separate requests for the populations of England, Scotland and Ireland produced the correct results at the top of the page although – disgracefully – there was nothing for Wales. Outrageous!
The Q&A also works for celebrities, countries of the world, the planets, the elements, electronics and movies. Peter Norvig, Google’s director of search quality, states that the company will continually work to broaden the scope of topics and to improve its capability to deliver more complex answers.
Only a small percentage of queries currently produce these factual answers, but the service is still its early stages, added Norvig.
Google are a bit late to the party with this one – other search engine providers such as Ask Jeeves, Yahoo and AOL are already offering similar services.
Norvig went on to explain that Google feeds the service with information from Web sites they considers to be reliable, but it’s yet to establish formal relationships with any of the sites providing the content.
You might think that some of the sites might be a tad miffed to see Google stealing their thunder, but Norvig thinks that they’ll be so chuffed to find themselves at the top of Google’s results list that they’ll want to run naked through the streets, clenching roses between their bum cheeks.
Well, he might have said that. To himself. When he was asleep. Possibly.