Google Search embraces the feed
Years ago, Google built a social network separate from its prized asset, web search. The effort failed.
Now the company is trying again — only this time, it’s turning its search engine into something that looks a lot like the news feed of a social network.
The Alphabet Inc. unit is introducing a tailored feed of news, entertainment and myriad web content based on users’ searches, YouTube video views and other personal information. It’s an expansion of an older mobile service called Google Now.
Yet some new bells and whistles — information from local trends and an ability to “follow” public figures, for instance — give Google’s search feed a similar feel to the algorithmic stream of Facebook Inc.’s News Feed. That feature has helped Facebook capture online attention in a way that few other companies have been able to mimic.
“We want people to understand they’re consuming information from Google,” Sashi Thakur, a Google engineering vice-president, told reporters. “It will just be without a query.”
Google has long been interested in making search more personal and proactive. When users are logged into to their Google accounts, search results are already heavily personalized. Google Now attempted to provide similar relevant information such as sports scores and driving directions before people typed queries, but it hasn’t been as popular as other services from the company, such as traditional search, Maps and the Chrome browser.
The new predictive search feed will get a lot more exposure because it will stream on the launch page of Google’s namesake mobile app on Android and Apple mobile devices beginning on Wednesday. The company is looking to bring it to mobile web browsers, although it didn’t say when. That means the web’s most valuable real estate, Google.com, could one day look like a personalized news feed, rather than just an empty white box waiting to be filled with a question or keyword.
The changes are a major step for Google, which rarely touches the landing page of a search service that generates billions of dollars a quarter in profit.
Google’s new search feed won’t behave exactly like social networks, according to company executives. “This feed is really about your interests and what you are doing,” said Ben Gomes, a veteran Google search executive. “It’s not really about what your friends are interested in.” In addition to search history, the feed pulls data from users’ location, email, calendars and YouTube views. The lack of a popular, rolling stream of online content, has been considered one of the few weak points in Google’s business, fuelling frequent takeover speculation of tinier social network Twitter Inc.
Google’s new predictive search feed was to be available Wednesday.