Google is tweaking its search engine to emphasize more personalized results and more compelling images.
Executives said on Monday that the changes were driven in part by the company’s increasing use of artificial intelligence technologies like deep learning. The technology can better determine the kind of information related to a particular search, even if it’s not obvious from the query used, and to do tasks like more accurately identify cats in photos.
A new “Journeys” feature is intended to keep track of users’ individual searches about particular topics. People searching for “camping,” for example, will be able to see their previous searches about camping gear under a new “Activity Card” tool, Nick Fox, Google vice president of product and design for search and the Google Assistant, said at an event in San Francisco. The idea is that people tend to repeatedly search for a particular topic as opposed to only searching for something once; it’s essentially a better-indexed version of the company’s search history feature.
People will be able to opt-out of the new feature if they don’t want their searches cataloged for them.
Google will also show more detailed information about particular topics at the top of the core search query page. For example, users who search for “pugs” will see a list of topics like “health” or “where to adopt” that they can then can click on for more information. Meanwhile, users who search for “Yorkshire terrier” will see topics that are relevant to that particular breed, like “how to groom,” because that breed has particularly long and wild fur.
The search giant is also debuting a new “Discover” tool that will show up on the main Google homepage on mobile browsers, said Shashidhar Thakur, Google’s vice president of engineering for search. The “discover” feature works similar to Facebook’s News Feed by presenting articles and videos to users based on what an algorithm identifies as most likely to appeal to them. This discover tool could keep people glued onto Google’s search engine if it shows people a greater variety of information that they otherwise would not have asked for.
Google did not say when or if Discover would debut on desktop browsers.
It’s unclear what safeguards Google is taking to ensure that the new Discover tool doesn’t recommend that people click on the kind of fake news and conspiracy theories that have plagued Facebook’s News Feed. To be sure, Google’s search recommendations aren’t influenced by what friends or family members are sharing like Facebook’s News Feed, but is influenced by one’s personal searches.