Google re­vamp­ing search with Face­book-style feed

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK TECHNOLOGY - Mark Ber­gen

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 search gi­ant 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’s News Feed. That fea­ture has helped Face­book cap­ture on­line at­ten­tion like few other com­pa­nies.

“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 their Google ac­counts, search re­sults are al­ready heav­ily per­son­alised.

Google Now at­tempted to pro­vide sim­i­lar rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion like 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 this week.

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 per­son­alised news feed, rather than just an empty white box wait­ing to be filled with a ques­tion or key­word.

“It should have roughly the same be­hav­iour,” as a news feed, Thakur said.

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. It’s also an ac­knowl­edg­ment that Face­book’s News Feed is one of the most ad­dic­tive ways to con­sume dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion on smart­phones.

Other tech com­pa­nies have come to sim­i­lar con­clu­sions. LinkedIn up­graded its home­page and app with more scrolling feed-like fea­tures, and this week Ama­zon.com launched Spark, a feed of shop­pable prod­uct sto­ries, pic­tures and ideas.

Still, Google’s new search feed won’t be­have ex­actly like so­cial net­works, ac­cord­ing to com­pany ex­ec­u­tives. That in­cludes Google Plus, the costly and now skele­tal ef­fort to cre­ate a di­rect Face­book com­peti­tor. “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, dig­i­tal cal­en­dars and YouTube views.

With a feed, Google also ex­poses it­self to crit­i­cism Face­book has faced for show­ing peo­ple ar­ti­cles that are false or that re­in­force their po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions.

Google has taken steps to ad­dress this. In April, the com­pany said it rewrote its search al­go­rithm to de-pri­ori­tise in­ten­tion­ally mis­lead­ing con­tent. “We’ve been thought­ful about de­sign­ing a user ex­pe­ri­ence that high­lights a va­ri­ety of per­spec­tives,” a com­pany spokes­woman said. As al­ways with its search al­go­rithm, Google de­clined to share how it does this. (Bloomberg)

Google is in­tro­duc­ing a tai­lored feed of news, en­ter­tain­ment and web con­tent based on users’ searches, YouTube video views and other info

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