Google Announces Vital New Changes to Search Function

Google searches affect such a big portion of our overall searches that we no longer “search” or “look up” something we need to know – we “Google” it. As important as Google is, they don’t make changes very often, but when they do, it’s noteworthy. To go along with their twentieth anniversary, they have announced some major changes to their search function.

Ben Gomes, VP of Search, News, and Assistant, announced these changes in a blog post. He spoke of growing up in India with a thirst for information, leading up to a move to the United States to study computer science where he later landed with Google to become one of their first employees.

Seemingly to beat back allegations that search results are politically biased, he spoke about Google’s focus on making information available with a focus on the user, a goal to give users the most relevant, highest quality information, their algorithmic approach, and testing every change they make.

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To go along with this huge milestone Google is approaching, they are announcing new changes, with Gomes explaining that they are looking to “make information more accessible everywhere.”

Their “next chapter” is driven by three shifts in the approach to search: the shift from answers to journeys, a shift from queries to providing a way to get information, and a shift from text to a more visual way of finding information.

And how will they make all these changes? With artificial intelligence. Google plans to improve the way they understand language, in ways that are possible in 2018 and beyond that weren’t possible twenty years ago.

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The thought is that neural networks can now help them search with concepts instead of words. Gomes explains, “neural embeddings, an approach developed in the field of neural networks, allows us to transform words to fuzzier representations of the underlying concepts and then match the concepts in the query with the concepts in the document.”

They call this “neural matching,” a process that allows them to address questions with the most relevant results, even if the words aren’t being used.

The first change is that when you visit the homepage on a mobile device, you’ll be introduced to a new version of the Google feed, one that was first introduced last year in the search app. They call this “Discover.” It will show surface content and relevant articles attached to what Google already knows about you.

Another change is that you’ll see information cards and images that will be called “Activity cards.” These will be shown at the top of your search results and will show previous searches and activity if Google feels it is useful to the current search. You can remove the cards that don’t apply.

The “Featured Video” cards feature will show up in a carousel if your search is related to a video. Additional tabs of information on a common topic will be offered in “enhanced topics,” those things that are searched for often. There will also be an option that will save your searches for possible use in the future. This will be called “Collections.”

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Since every other tech service is moving into “Stories,” so will Google. Just like Instagram and Snapchat, AMP stories will be available with curated text information, video, and images.

Image searches will receive more quality and priority in the pages that are used, and they are also integrating with Lens, their tool that will allow you to identify what you’re searching for by using your own photo.

But will all this really change the opinion of Google? They get such flack for gathering information on users, especially with regards to searching, and it seems like all these changes only have the propensity to make it worse.

Is that what you think too? Are you worried this will only make Google soak up more information on you? Let us know what you think about Google’s new changes in their search function.

10 comments

  1. “Google Announces Vital New Changes to Search Function”
    So they can monopolize the Search space even more?!

    “a goal to give users the most relevant, highest quality information”
    HORSE MANURE!
    A recent 60 Minutes report showed that ALL the search results on the first two screens displayed on a PC and the first four screens displayed on mobile devices are for Google-owned sites, no matter what the actual URL is. According to Google research, very few users bother to look beyond the first two screens on a PC or the first four screens on a mobile device. In addition, for a payment, Google will improve a site’s placement in the result order. So the results presented to the user are neither “the most relevant” nor of “the highest quality”. However, they are relevant and arranged to maximize Google’s bottom line and control of the Search space. Any changes or improvements are only designed to make it easier for Google to hoover up more data easier.

    • I was not surprised to see your anti-Google rant but was surprised at your very clear statement that “ALL the search results on the first two screens displayed on a PC and the first four screens displayed on mobile devices are for Google-owned sites”. I decided to test this and entered Dragonmouth into the search box on my laptop. I can’t see any Google owned sites in the results on page 1 unless Wikipedia, Reddit, Britannica, Merriam-Webster, Urban Dictionary, etc are owned by Google. Page 2 includes Amazon, Thefreedictionary, Beermenus, and at last a couple of Google owned sites: YouTube and Google books which are both surely valid and correct items to include.

      What I didn’t see was any reference to you which will save others being directed to your boring obsessive, repetitive and, in this case, factually incorrect rants against Google.

      • The results I cite are those of 60 Minutes research staff and individuals in the Search industry they worked with. If you wish to view the report in question for yourself and find out how they came to their conclusions, go to 60MinutesOvertime.com.

        As to my “anti-Google” rants being baseless – are you saying that the accusations against Google are false? Then why did the European Union hit Google with $billions in fines for anti-competitve practices? Aren’t you perhaps a little addicted to Google Kool-Aid?

        • Dragonmouth, why not take a look yourself at the example search I gave that disproved your accusation.

          When you’ve done that tell me where I said your rants are baseless? Reread what I said and concentrate on boring, obsessive and repetitive.

          You’ve made you point about Google time and time again. Time to give it a rest.

          I assure you I’m not addicted to anything. I too criticise mega-companies when they deserve it and Google like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, etc have at times deserved it. I just don’t obsess, keep repeating myself and bore others with the same old rant.

    • Let me just jump into this here to point something out. I had done so previously, but for some reason my comment was not posted.

      As a content creator, the accusations over what it takes to appear on Google couldn’t be further from the truth, whether or not it appeared on 60 Minutes. It is not monetary; it is not political bias. There are so many things involved in their algorithm, and that is why as content creators we spend a lot of time on choosing the correct title, content, SEO, etc., trying to reach a certain place on search engines. The more narrow your topic/keyword, the higher you’ll place. The more broad, the lower you’ll place. But that’s still just a little of their algorithm. Popularity plays into it, etc. As far as political bias, recently I did a test and did a political search. I came up with the top two results being CNN or similar and Fox News. That’s not monetary. That’s popularity. I had a really broad search term.

      I haven’t seen the 60 Minutes piece, but I do political research on Google every day. I am also a current events/news writer for a site in New York. I don’t see a bias, and I don’t see monetary-based results, other than ads.

      Is Google getting hit right now? Yes, but it’ not really playing out the way you are describing. It’s political. The Republicans have alleged bias. So Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, has agreed to testify. As far as what’s going on with European Union, that isn’t over Google search results. The huge fine they were hit with was with regards to antitrust with Android.

      • As I’ve stated, I am just quoting the 60 Minutes report.

        “I haven’t seen the 60 Minutes piece”
        If you haven’t seen it, how can you be commenting about its accuracy? Or are you assuming that if it is anti-Google then it must be wrong or biased?
        BTW – I never said anything about a political bias or lack thereof.

        “I don’t see a bias”
        Do you see any bias in FOXNews, Breitbart and other conservative sites? :-) Whether you want to believe it or not, whether you see it or not, everybody and every site is biased in some way or another. But that is a discussion for another time.

        “There are so many things involved in their algorithm”
        And that is the problem. Anytime the participants can affect the search results by manipulating the SEO and other parameters, the results can no longer be trusted to be accurate or relevant. The results may be acceptable to you but to me they seem to be rigged.

        “As far as what’s going on with European Union, that isn’t over Google search results.”
        Yes, I know. However, you cannot ignore the man behind the curtain. Google’s troubles with the EU show that it is not the “goody two-shoes” knight in shining armor that its proponents try to convince the world it is.

        • I didn’t say the 60 Minutes piece was wrong. I was addressing what you are assuming from what you saw in the 60 Minutes piece.

          I did not say there was no political bias in websites. As a news reporter, I’m really not that naive. What I said was the order of websites listed in a Google search was not biased.

          Regardless of the connections you are trying to make between the European Union’s fine and search results, it simply does not exist.

          • GRIN. I am making any assumptions. I just wrote down what I heard and let those reading my post come to their own conclusions.

            I am not trying to make a connection between the fines and the search. You may be trying to read too much into my posts. Of course, that is not to say that at some time in the future the EU will not find some fault with Google search. :-)

  2. “Are you worried this will only make Google soak up more information on you?”

    I agree with dragonmouth that Google’s primary interest is Google – they care about users to the degree those users can help Google’s bottom line. I’m not sure Google can soak up any more information than they already do – if there is a way, then they certainly will – that’s their business. It will be interesting to see if the changes will lead to users being creeped out by deducing just how much Google does know about them based on more “story-based” search results.

  3. Gawd knows what kind of people work at Google but they clearly don’t actually use the search functions “images” search !!!

    Today all of sudden gone is the ability to search for the same image of varying sizes and now instead of an expanded image displayed below an image you are searching for various sizes, it’s all move to the right of the page with lots of random useless so called “Related Images” that have nothing to do with the image you are looking for the best size and quality for !!!

    Way to go yet again Google, take away something that was useful and replace it with utter crap dreamt up by some overpaid nerd whom sits around all day coming up with useless changes just to try and justify their salary and worse still their useless “bright idea” get’s passed and approved by management clearly none of whom actually use Googles search function or they would realise just how utterly garbage their bright ideas really are in the real world… :-/

    Think I’ll just nip down the library from now on…

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