Feb 28, 2018

Google updates search to better answer ambiguous questions

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is launching a new feature, called multi-faceted featured snippets, that will provide users with multiple answers to nuanced questions. For example, if a user asks about “ears popping on a plane,” they could be looking for the cause or for remedies.

Why it matters: The new rollout represents a significant update to a years-long progress of refining search results to show users the most accurate answers in relation to the intent of what they are asking.

Google
  • Google's ultimate goal is to use consensus to inform answers to search queries on the web. The hope is that this will ultimately elevate high quality sources of information.
  • The update could one potentially help combat fake news search results, because the feature aims to provide more comprehensive set of perspectives
  • The update is a part of an ongoing effort to refine search results to provide users with the most accurate answers possible.

"Overall we believe this direction allows google provide more comprehensive overview for an area," says Emily Moxley, director of product management for this feature. "We're not trying to provide every possible opinion, but we're trying to focus on providing more authoritative voices."

What's next? Google plans to expand coverage to more queries as it improves machine learning around the product, including multi-opinion queries, such as, "Is milk good for you?"

Go deeper

China tries to contain coronavirus, as Apple warns of earnings impact

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

As China pushes to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus — placing around 780 million people under travel restrictions, per CNN — the economic repercussions continue to be felt globally as companies like Apple warn of the impact from the lack of manufacturing and consumer demand in China.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,775 people and infected more than 70,000 others, mostly in mainland China. There are some signs that new cases are growing at a slower rate now, although the World Health Organization said Monday it's "too early to tell" if this will continue.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health

Apple will miss quarterly earnings estimates due to coronavirus

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple issued a rare earnings warning on Monday, saying it would not meet quarterly revenue expectations due to the impact of the coronavirus, which will limit iPhone production and limit product demand in China.

Why it matters: Lots of companies rely on China for production, but unlike most U.S. tech companies, Apple also gets a significant chunk of its revenue from sales in China.

America's dwindling executions

The Trump administration wants to reboot federal executions, pointing to a 16-year lapse, but Pew Research reports the government has only executed three people since 1963.

The big picture: Nearly all executions in the U.S. are done by states. Even those have been steadily dropping for two decades, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) — marking a downward trend for all executions in the country.