Google Brings New Meaning to the Web

The search-engine giant now “understands” what you’re looking for

4 min read

7 June 2012—Depending on where you are, you may have recently noticed a dramatic change in your Google search results. For example, if you type in the key words “Margaret Thatcher,” you’ll get the usual set of links to highly ranked sites about this former British prime minister. But to the right of that list, you’ll also see a new pane with information about Thatcher—her photograph, date of birth, children, education, books she’s written—along with links to similar sets of information about her husband, other British prime ministers, and even Meryl Streep, who played Thatcher in the movie Iron Lady.

This new feature is the first visible outgrowth of something Google calls the Knowledge Graph, a vast collection of information about a half-billion entities and the relationships between them. It represents Google’s new push to make sense of the Web in terms of “things, not strings,” to use the company’s catchphrase. Instead of just indexing Web documents by the words they contain, “we really need to understand about things in the real world,” says Shashi Thakur, technical lead on the Knowledge Graph project, which some see as a stepping stone to a long-sought system called the Semantic Web.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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