The Knowledge Graph is about more than facts

Today, Google announced the introduction of the “knowledge graph”, which introduces facts into Google searches.  So now, when you search for an object that Google understands, search results reflect Google’s actual understanding, leveraging what they know about each object.  Here is a video with more detail.

At Ranker, we know things about specific objects too, as most every item in the Ranker system maps to a Freebase object, which is a company (MetaWeb) that Google bought in order to provide these features.  We know a lot of the same information that Google knows, since we leverage the Freebase dataset.  For example, on our Godfather page, we present facts such as who directed the movie, when it was released, and what it’s rating was.  However, we also present other facts that people traditionally do not think of as part of the knowledge graph, but are actually just as essential to understanding the world.  We tell you that it’s one of the best movies of all time.  We also tell you that people who like the Godfather also tend to like Goodfellas, the Shawshank Redemption, and Scarlett Johansson.

Is this “knowledge”?  These aren’t “hard” facts, but it is a fact that people generally think of The Godfather as a good movie and Gilgi as a bad movie.  Moreover, knowledge about people’s opinions is essential for understanding the world in the way that the “Star Trek computer” that is referred to in Google’s blog post understands the world.  Could you pick a college based on factual information about enrollment and majors offered?  Could you hold an intelligent conversation about Harvard without knowing it’s place in the universe of universities?  Could you choose a neighborhood to live in based solely on statistics about the neighborhood, or would understanding what neighborhoods people like you also tend to like help you make the right choice?  If the broader mission of a search engine is to help you answer questions, then information about people’s opinions about colleges and neighborhoods is essential in these cases.  The knowledge graph isn’t just about facts, it’s about opinions as well.  Much of the knowledge you use in everyday reasoning concerns opinions, and if the internet is to get smarter, it needs this knowledge just as much as it needs to know factual information.

My guess is that Google gets this.  In 2004, searches for the word “best” were roughly equal to searches for words like car, computer or software, but people are increasingly searching for opinions online.  My uneducated guess is that Google bought Zagat, in part, for this reason.  Bing, Wolphram Alpha, Apple, and Facebook are all working on similar semantic search solutions, and as long as people continue to dream about the holodeck computer that can intelligently answer requests like “book me a hotel room in Toronto” or “buy my niece a present for her birthday”, data about opinions will be a part of the future of the knowledge graph.

- Ravi Iyer

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