In a battle of the old world versus the new, the Encyclopedia Britannica is looking to regain relevance by attaching itself to Google search results in an effort to correct the misinformation that the company deems to exist there.
The new search product, “Britannica Insights,” is a Chrome extension that will take information from the encyclopedia and populate it on the sidebar “snippet” of a Google search results page. The snippet is a welcomed resource in most cases when it comes to simple, factual questions that aren’t involved in emotionally charged rhetoric. How far away is the Earth from the Sun? When does the new Mario Tennis come out? Do dogs sweat? The information is fast, accessible, and usually correct. It’s these snippets that also inform 80 percent of Google Home search results. Britannica Insights doesn’t replace Google’s snippet; it just provides its own results next to Google’s.
The plug-in is free and the content is provided through human writers and editors at the company. Suggested articles and context are provided underneath search results as well, an improvement to the core basics that some Google snippets currently provide.
“For 250 years, Britannica has defined what it means to provide trusted and verified information,” said Karthik Krishnan, global chief executive officer of the Britannica Group, in a press release. “With the addition of this latest extension, Britannica Insights will make it easier for everyone from kids to curious adults to professional researchers to find trustworthy results faster. Now more than ever, how we discover information matters.”
The Britannica Insights release comes at a time when Google and its products, like YouTube, are beginning to utilize Wikipedia as a source for online fact-checking. In March, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that the platform would begin adding information from Wikipedia underneath videos in efforts to address the platform’s onslaught of conspiracy-related content.
As most know, Wikipedia pages can be easily edited and this makes the platform a playground for trolls. Whether it’s congressional staffers editing the Garfield page, or trolls trying to get a rise out of, well, anyone, the nonprofit Wikimedia resource sometimes lets false information stew on the platform. Recently, conservatives were in an uproar after the Google snippet for the Republican party listed “Nazism” as their ideology. The change wasn’t corrected for nearly a week.
Encyclopedia Britannica hopes to combat these issues by expanding the market for quick, sidebar information like the Google snippet. Searches for subjects like “climate change” result in not only a basic descriptor, but go on to provide context and what the company calls a “deep dive” into the subject. With this new extension, the company hopes to “cut through the noise on the internet and provide trusted and verified information at the top-right corner of their search results page.”