It’s been 20 years since Google Search first arrived on the web, and the company is updating its core product with a slew of new features for the anniversary.
The throughline for the features is AI. Google Search now anticipates and customizes much of your search experience automatically, and it also uses AI on the back end to do things like create relevant clips from videos. Another clear focus is mobile, mobile, mobile. At the event in San Francisco, where Google announced the new features, virtually every slide showed how the new tools would look on a smartphone, not a desktop.
First there’s the new Activity Card, which appears as a thin strip above your results. Expanding the card will show you related searches as well as previous searches you’ve performed on the same topic.
Also new is Collections, which let you save and organize searches around specific topics, in effect “Pinterest-ifying” search. You can grab anything that appears in your Activity Card and add it to a Collection.
The Google “feed” — a stream of information cards about your interests that appears in some of Google’s apps — is getting a revamp. Now called Discover, it has more granular controls over content that appears, and new topic headings that explain why you’re seeing what you’re seeing. Some bilingual users may like that Discover can surface content in multiple languages, starting with English and Spanish. The Discover feed will roll out to the Google homepage for all mobile users.
If you’re a fan of the Stories format, Google has good news: It’s “doubling down” on Stories in search, including AMP Stories.
Featured Videos is another new feature. Now, when your search surfaces video, Google will automatically generate preview clips for those videos, using AI to find the most relevant parts of the clip.
Image Search is improved with a new ranking algorithm to help ensure image results are relevant. Also improving image results is Google Lens integration, which can scan the image (or part of it) and tell you more about it. Of course, that’s AI-powered, too, so your mileage will probably vary quite a bit.
Lots of people use Google Search in emergencies, and Google has new tools for that, too, including an AI-based flood prediction model, which should give users more accurate and timely flood alerts. It’s rolling out first in India.
Finally, Google has a new job search tool called Pathways, which doesn’t just point you to job listings but also training programs. It’s first rolling out in Virginia.
Google Search’s new features acknowledge how people search today, giving them a smarter toolset. They’ll also make it harder for competitors like Bing to keep up. But one feature Google Search can’t ever add is freedom from Google — the only feature that matters to those wary of the company’s growing ad and information engine, which these features are sure to help fuel.
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