Google announced last Friday that its search engine will highlight structured data in order to provide direct, factual answers to search queries instead of merely pointing the user to a site that may contain the answer. If this all sounds familiar, it's because Microsoft introduced the same feature when it rolled out its Bing search engine.
In fact, Microsoft was promoting the "get your answers right there in your search results" capability as a major differentiator between Bing and Google. The company even went so far as to claim Bing is a "decision" engine -- as opposed to a mere search engine -- because of this capability. So now here comes Google, looking to steal Microsoft's thunder.
[ This is the latest development in the ongoing Google-Microsoft battle. ]
However these search engine wars play out, this is a good development for users. As Google points out in its announcement, a good deal of data on the Web is unstructured, which means computers can have a hard time interpreting it. Because of this, search results won't necessarily give users quite what they're looking for -- the key words are there, but the result itself might not be relevant.
Google's remedy is what the company calls answer highlighting. If a user searches for a question or enters a search string that has a factual answer, such as "Gettysburg Address date," Google will boldface the answer right there in the search results, meaning you won't have to click various search results and scan those pages to find the answer.
In other words, Google is trying to out-Bing Bing.