These days, Google is responsible for countless projects spanning the entire tech industry, from self-driving cars to floating balloons that offer internet connectivity. But it hasn’t forgotten its humble beginnings in Search. The company has now launched an update that should make searching on Google a much more personalized experience.
The update was initially announced in July, whereupon it was only made available to U.S. users. But now, it’s available to everyone around the world. At the core of the update is the “feed,” or the stream of information you’ll get when you head to the Google app or the formerly named “Google Now” section on your Google Pixel or Pixel XL smartphone. You won’t see the changes when you head to the Google website on your desktop just yet — though the company says that it’s working on bringing the update to browsers at some point in the near future.
The feed itself was first introduced back in December as a part of the Google app, and the company has slowly been increasing the types of content you see. So what exactly is changing? Well, the feed is about to become more personalized, and you’ll be in the driver’s seat for that personalization. You’ll now be able to follow or unfollow individual topics, and the feed will pull in information based on those interests.
First up is the ability to “dive deeper.” In other words, the feed will help users explore topics they’re interested in, beyond simply reading an article Google presents in the feed. You can tap the header of the card in the Google app to search the relevant topic on Google. From there, as with any search result, you’ll be able to see things like recent news about the topic, related articles, and so on.
Google is also attempting to helping people find multiple different perspectives on a particular topic. How? Well, when you’re presented with a news article, you might see a small carousel section underneath showing other related articles from other publications.
New to you
Google will now present content that it calls “new-to-you.” In other words, that content might not be new on the web, but it might be related to a new interest of yours. If, for example, you start learning the guitar and search about the instrument on the web, Google might pick up on that new interest and present a guide on “how to string your guitar” that was written two years ago. Not new content — but newly important to you.
The changes so far have been about Google picking up on your interests — but you can also explicitly tell Google about an interest of yours with a new “Follow” button that will show up on topic cards in Google Search. The button is located in an easy-to-find spot on the top left of the card, and once you tap it you’ll immediately start seeing related content in the feed. For example, you might watch Christopher Nolan’s latest film Dunkirk, and find you’re interested in Harry Styles, who’s in the film. Simply search Harry Styles, and you’ll then find the “Follow” button, which you can tap on. It’s as easy to unfollow him if you find too many articles related to One Direction in your feed.
“While we’ve been getting better at understanding your interests, it hasn’t always been easy for you to choose new topics for your feed,” said Google in a blog post. “To help you keep up with exactly what you care about, you’ll now be able to follow topics, right from Search results. Look out for a new “FOLLOW” button next to certain types of search results—including movies, sports teams, your favorite bands or music artists, famous people, and more.”
All this might sound a little familiar. Google Now has been personal to you for years now. But Google sees this as more of a natural evolution of Now rather than anything groundbreakingly new.
“We’re fine-tuning and improving all of those interest signals,” Emily Moxley, product manager for Search, told Digital Trends. “So we’ve worked a fair amount on ensuring that those algorithms work really really well. Plus, if you see an article that interests you can deep dive into that entire topic.”
If successful, the system could one day be used for advertising — though the company says that it has “nothing to share” about advertising in the feed at this point.
The update to the feed is available in both the Android and iOS version of the Google app, and Google Pixel owners will be able to experience the updated feed by swiping left on their home screen. The company is also working on extending the features to both the Google homepage and to mobile web.
Update: Google Feed updates are now available to everyone around the world.
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