In these early days, when users were just getting acquainted with Siri, the software largely relied on search engines to retrieve its data. Many times, Siri was just Googling something on your behalf. Then, as time went on, Apple integrated additional sources to round out Siri’s knowledge base (via Apple Insider).
For instance, if you asked a question about a movie, Siri might look to Rotten Tomatoes for an answer instead of a more general search engine. A question about a local hotel or restaurant might, likewise, get you an answer from Yelp. Apple eventually realized that if it wanted to avoid the dreaded “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help with that” response, it’d need to broaden Siri’s horizons. To do so, the company filed a patent in 2013 for a system that crowdsourced answers from the wide 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 an answer. If those 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 possibility of sending questions with no discernable answer out into an arena where users could answer. The answer would then be relayed to the asker days or weeks after the ask. While the latter seems not to have manifested, Siri did get better at searching more widely for information.