“One of the greatest advances in the history of the search engine”. It is in these terms that the company presents the algorithm change it will deploy, in 70 languages including French, from Monday, December 9. This one has already taken place for English at the end of October. The California firm says it has managed to create a system that can better understand the queries made by Internet users, thanks to artificial intelligence technology.
Everything started from a problem. “Our job is to understand what you are looking for and to bring back useful information from the Web, no matter how you wrote or combined the words in your query”, explained Pandu Nayak, head of Search, in a statement released at the launch of the new algorithm for English.
“But sometimes it does not work very well, especially for complex queries, or conversely. Besides, this is one of the reasons why people often use “keyword” suites that they think we will understand, but that's not the way they would naturally ask a question. “
“Take into account the context”
To progress, Google relied on an artificial intelligence technology that consists of analyzing the words of a query “In relation to all the other words of the sentence, rather than one by one in the order”. BERT is its name (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), and would “To take into account the context of a word”, what would be “Particularly useful for understanding the intent behind a query”.
This program would be able to determine, in a set of words, those who are the most important and those who are less important. For example in the query “Take medication for someone pharmacy” : “With BERT we can better understand that” for someone “is an important part of the request, whereas before we would miss the meaning of this request, and we would have proposed general results on the orders. “
In English, Google ensures that this new system improves the understanding, and therefore the results, of one query out of ten. And hopefully it will be easier for users to ask questions “normally” rather than thinking about the most relevant keywords.
“It does not always work”
An evolution that responds to another need: that of connected speakers, that the iconic companies of the Web, such as Google, Amazon and Apple, try to impose in the homes, and they must, respond to requests in natural language, because spoken by the users. Those who do it best will have the best chance of winning against their competitors.
If Google is satisfied with what it considers to be a huge improvement, Pandu Nayak would like to note that, even with BERT, “It does not always work”. “Understanding language remains a challenge”, he recalls.
The company also promises that this new algorithm should not have a significant impact on the sites to which its search engine returns. Every major modification of Google's algorithm is scrutinized by companies, especially online businesses whose turnover may depend on their position on the search engine.