In its anniversary press conference earlier this week Google announced a raft of changes and new features designed to improve search.
The new image search desktop design has now been rolled out. Thumbnails have captions below them showing the title of the webpage where the image is published, source url information is displayed and new filter bubbles above the results suggest related terms.
In addition, Google has added Creator and Credit metadata on images and announced that it would also be adding Copyright Notice metadata.Just click on the Image Data Credits link to view the Creator and Credit metadata fields.
Activity Cards and new Collections
People often search multiple times over numerous sessions to find the answers to queries such as planning a holiday or renting an apartment. Activity Cards and Collections are designed to help with this process.
Activity cards let you pick up where you left off, showing you previous searches and sites you visited. With the revamped Collections feature, you can add content directly from your Activity cards and you’ll also see related suggestions. Activity cards will be rolled out later in the year. They won’t appear for every search, and Google says they will be editable and users will be able to turn them on or off.
Google is adding a Topic Layer to the knowledge graph, which is more of its AI in action. The Topic Layer is created by analysing all the content that exists on the web for a certain topic and developing subtopics for which the most relevant and evergreen content is shown.
Dynamic organization of search results means that rather than using pre-determined categories, Google will show the subtopics most relevant to what you’re searching for. So, for examples these two dog breeds have distinct subcategories, based on related queries and content as understood by Google’s AI.
Google Feed becomes Discover
Google Feed - the list of items below the default search bar in Google’s mobile app - is being rebranded as Discover, and will appear on the Google home page on all mobile browsers. New topic headings allow you to dive deeper and explore further on that topic. The feed will be personalised, based on your interactions and what Google has learned about you.
“Using the Topic Layer in the Knowledge Graph, Discover can predict your level of expertise on a topic and help you further develop those interests. If you’re learning to play guitar, for example, you might see beginner content about learning chords. If you’re already a skilled musician, you may see a video on more advanced techniques.”
Google’s SOS Alerts and Public Alerts service is being expanded. AI and computational power will be used to build improved flood forecasting models and the service has launched in India in partnership with India’s Central Water Commission.
Google also announced a new initiative to help people searching for jobs, called Pathways, designed to help people find training opportunities.
Whatt do these changes mean?
It’s not hard to work out what drives Google. Like any business it’s about the bottom line. With all these new features and improvements, it seems like Google is making itself ever more indispensable in our daily lives.
With Google’s every tweak and improvement, we spend more time on their services and less time navigating to other sites. If Google gives you everything you need, why go to 3rd party content? It's another step towards Google as an information provider in its own right.
Google is so big, and has a reach into so much of our lives, it’s worth pausing to consider whether its near monopoly is a good thing. We’re currently grappling with the issues of big tech platforms, democracy and the effect on our politics, and the question of regulation for tech giants such as Google and Facebook. Separately, the increasing level of personalisation these services’ AI capabilities offer might be considered useful by some, but intrusive by others.
Whether the convenience of their many services is worth our data and privacy Is an individual choice, but with the tech giants' services extending into so many aspects of our lives, it’s increasingly hard to resist.