Google is overhauling its search engine to provide a more direct answer to user queries, rather than just supplying web links.

The overhaul will involve the addition of "semantic" search technology over the coming months. The Wall Street Journal, which first revealed the news, described it as one of the biggest developments in Google's history.

Semantic searches attempt to understand the meaning of words, and therefore the meaning of a user query, rather than simply searching the exact words entered.

Google may now begin providing a single answer to a search query, rather than the thousands of links that can appear.

The semantic search will likely draw on a huge database of information on things, places and people, which Google is understood to have been building over recent years.

The answers may resemble the approach of Wolfram Alpha's approach, a British computational search engine which tries to answer queries rather than supply a list of websites, the Telegraph newspaper noted.

Google's traditional keyword search will be blended into the semantic search.