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Google is testing new features to improve its snippets function after inaccurate and offensive results

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It may only roll out some features it is currently testing, depending on results

Google is experimenting with several new formats to improve its snippets function after the feature came under fire last year for displaying wildly offensive and inaccurate search results. The company has previously said it is taking steps toward improving results, and in a blog post yesterday, it announced it is testing new options including “near matches” and showing more than one snippet for some search queries.

Near matches are displayed snippets that might not be exactly what you searched for, but are close enough to help you get the information you need. Google gives the example of a search for “how did the Romans tell time at night?” The result showed a snippet explaining a sundial, which is actually a match for “how did Romans tell time?” but is still related to the initial query.

Google says it’s also working on displaying multiple snippets at once in cases where the way you phrase a question could produce contradictory results. For instance, “are reptiles good pets?” or “are reptiles bad pets?” should receive similar information, but they currently don’t. Google says its systems favor content that’s strongly aligned with what was asked, so it will match a page talking about reptiles being good pets to someone who searches with that particular wording.

“There are often legitimate diverse perspectives offered by publishers, and we want to provide users visibility and access into those perspectives from multiple sources,” Matthew Gray, the software engineer who leads the featured snippets team, said in the blog post. Google says 15 percent of queries asked on a typical day have never been asked before.

Google is also testing interactive snippets that let you further customize the information shown, like choosing which phone carrier you have when looking up support information.

Google says it may only roll out some features it is currently testing, depending on results.