In those early days, when users were just beginning to learn about Siri, the software relied heavily on search engines to retrieve its data. Many times Siri would simply google something on your behalf. Then, over time, Apple integrated additional sources to supplement Siri’s knowledge base (via Apple Insider).
For example, if you ask a question about a movie, Siri might turn to Rotten Tomatoes for an answer instead of a more general search engine. A question about a local hotel or restaurant may similarly get answered by Yelp. Apple finally realized that if it wanted to avoid the dreaded “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help you” response, it would have to broaden Siri’s horizons. To do this, the company filed a patent in 2013 for a system that collected responses from the internet to answer your questions.
According to Apple Insider, the patent described a system in which a query was sent to the usual suspects for a response. If these well-known sources failed, the question could then be sent to a crowdsourcing database for an answer. The proposed system went even further, suggesting the ability to send questions with no discernible answer into an arena where users could respond. The response would then be delivered to the requester days or weeks after the request. While the latter doesn’t seem to have surfaced, Siri has improved to search more broadly for information.