November 30, 2023

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Google is making changes to search to fend off competition and take on AI, and here’s what that means.

Google is making changes to search to fend off competition and take on AI, and here’s what that means.

This article is from Big techa newscast written by Alex Kantrowitz.

For many years, Google dominated search with little opposition. The format has encountered a bit of disruption. It was always just a bunch of blue links. The company’s multibillion-dollar deals with phone makers to keep Google Search as the default have also boosted its lead. But his comfortable perch is actually starting to fade. A lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice It revealed its distribution practices, opening it up to competition with the conclusion of a high-profile federal antitrust trial this week. Generative AI tools threaten to upend research format and tear up the playing field.

At the moment, Google is experimenting with bold new changes that may meaningfully change the search experience. It has begun allowing people to leave publicly visible feedback in search results, in a test announced this week. that it Option added To follow up on specific search queries and send you new information instead of requiring you to perform repeated searches. It continues to test generative AI results that answer questions in natural language.

“This is the most exciting time of my entire career,” Google Search Vice President Cathy Edwards told me in an October 23 interview. Big Tech Podcast this week.

Search is Google’s cash tap. It generates most of its revenue and finances the company’s big bets. All those Google-like things — experimental products, research, successful projects, shareholder returns — wouldn’t be possible without search margins. Tweaking the recipe is risky. However, the company seems willing (or forced) to try.

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NotesWhich Google launched as an experiment this week, may be its boldest possible modifications. It effectively places an online comments section at the top of the results page. If you’re looking for a recipe that calls for meat, for example, someone can leave a note sharing a vegetarian alternative. Find a website that has timely information, and someone can add a note if it’s out of date. If one website is easy to navigate and another is a nightmare, you can add a note to help others decide which site they want to visit.

“Basically, people want to hear information from other people,” Edwards said. Feedback aims to help them guide each other to get the best information.

Online comments tend to get out of hand, so Google takes some precautions to keep Notes civil. Edwards said the team has been studying its YouTube peers, cleaning up the once-horrific comments section. “We’re best friends now,” Edwards said of the company siblings. Expect similar filters and thumbs-up and thumbs-down options in Notes so that the best user errors make it to the top.

Along with Feedback, Google released the Follow on Search option this week that will be rolled out globally. Follow will allow you to subscribe to specific queries, and be notified of updates when new information arrives. If you’re interested in stir-fried vegan foods, for example, Google can alert you when a new recipe page comes online. And as many of the social media mainstays that users rely on to track their interests are declining — including X, Facebook News Feed, and Tumblr — there’s an opportunity for Google to step in and fill the gap. Edwards said the company doesn’t want to build a social network. But it may provide a similar benefit without it.

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Google Research on obstetric expertise— which adds AI-generated responses on top of results pages — seems to perform well within the lab features. “Users are really excited about this experience; morale is higher,” Edwards said. “We’re also seeing users making more complex queries.” The statement suggests that SGE, as Google calls it, may offer some of the benefits of searching with an AI bot without turning Google search entirely into Chat – This is the halfway point between the familiar Google search UI and ChatGPT.

Google still has some issues to solve with generative search. If a response resolves a query without requiring someone to scroll to the bottom of a page of links, it could limit the amount of ads they’ll click on, threatening business. “We keep advertising and membership [search] “Very separate at Google,” Edwards said. But Wall Street will still demand some answers.

Paying publishers whose information appears within AI-produced responses is another issue. Ingesting and displaying publisher content on the web is different than simply inserting headlines and blue links, and may send less traffic to publishers. But until now, determining whether SGE is sending more or less traffic to publishers has been difficult because the subscription nature of SGE limits Google’s ability to measure accurately. “It drives our statisticians crazy,” Edwards said.

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The option to simply block crawling – as happens in search – appears to be insufficient to alleviate publishers’ concerns about SGE. However, so far, no one seems to have a good solution outside of small licensing deals, like OpenAI Agreement with the Associated Press.

The wave of potentially wide-ranging changes — Notes, SGE, and Follow — could amount to the most significant redesign of Google Search in a decade or more. Nothing in technology lasts forever, not even the most dominant potential customers. For Google, the hope is that these features – and anything to come – will be enough to maintain its dominance for some time. long.