Google Shares New Vision for Search: Keeping Users Closer

At an event on the “Future of Search,” Google unveiled what’s next for its search engine. The Google homepage will start highlighting a user’s frequently searched topics before she begins searching, in response to a finding that one in eight queries per month are repeats. Google Feed is being rebranded as “Discover,” and will be placed underneath the search bar on all mobile browsers, highlighting news, video and information Google believes the user is interested in. Visuals will be more prominent on the site.

TechCrunch reports that, “Google will now learn to recognize when you’re returning to a topic you’ve searched for before, and try to start back up where you left off.” When the user returns to a search topic, he will see a card offering up a list of pages he previously clicked on. The user can also remove the card or “opt out of seeing it all together.”

Based on what Google knows about the user’s searches, it will dynamically generate cards for such topics and place them at the top of the results page, “basically, an all-in-one info packet of everything it thinks you’re looking for, or might look for next.” The user will also be able to save search results into “collections,” and “Google will look for patterns in your collections, and toss up suggested pages when it finds an overlap.”

Google also stated it is “doubling down” on stories, using AI to “generate stories built up from articles, images, and videos on a search topic (starting with notable people “like celebrities and athletes) and incorporate them into search results.” Google Images is also leveraging its computer vision-enabled Google Lens to help identify specific products highlighted in an image.

Wired reports that, at the event, which marked Google’s 20th anniversary, the company “focused on major shifts in how people search, including the move from text to visual search.” Its new focus on stories will provide “immersive, full-screen content using AMP, the company’s standard for making mobile pages faster.” Google also said it plans to “soon work with publishers who also want to experiment with the format.”

The search changes are intended to keep users on Google’s site, “pushing external links further down the page,” which Wired calls “another sign of how Google has reversed its traditional goal of moving users off Google as quickly as possible to the information they want.”

Another new feature is a carousel of “featured videos” that “extracts the most relevant snippets from a video and then automatically plays the next snippet.” This strategy to keep users on its sites “promises incredible convenience to consumers, but benefits Google most of all,” says Wired, adding that, “as with all of the incredible conveniences Google offers users, these shifts will come at a cost to users,” since Google’s algorithms “can’t predict what you’re interested in unless they know more about who you are, what you search for, and what you like.”

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