Don’t be surprised if your Google search experience looks different sometime soon. Internal documents say the company plans to make its search engine more “visual, snackable, personal, and human,” with an eye on young people worldwide, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
The makeover will involve adding AI features like chat, along with more social-media posts and short video, said the Journal, which also cited people familiar with the matter. In response to search queries, users may be urged more often to ask follow-up questions or to swipe through visuals like TikTok videos, the Journal said.
Google’s search page is one of the world’s most widely used web pages, fielding billions of queries every day. A change in design would send significant ripples through the tech industry and our larger culture and would bring AI to the masses in a way we’ve not yet seen.
News of the makeover comes as Google faces new competition from TikTok. More and more young people are using the popular short-video app to search for information on restaurants and other topics. Last September, Google started spotlighting short-form video in search. The Journal now says such content will get bigger play.
It also says that though Google has already moved to feature some online forum posts in search results, similar content will be featured more prominently. Google “plans to incorporate more human voices as part of the shift, supporting content creators in the same way it has historically done with websites,” the Journal reported.
News of the redesign also comes as Google faces an increased challenge from Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which recently incorporated AI chat technology. And it comes ahead of Google’s annual I/O conference, set for May 10, where the company is widely expected to tout AI products.
Last Month, The New York Times reported that Google is working on an AI-powered search engine that’s meant to offer a “more personalized experience,” be more conversational and “anticipate” your needs.
And also last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the Journal that Google will “absolutely” add AI chat to its search engine. You can currently join a waitlist to check out Google’s Bard AI chatbot, but the company, a powerhouse in AI research, has said it’s been holding back on adding AI chat to search, over concerns about the accuracy of AI and the technology’s impact on society.
Competitive pressures have ramped up, though. If Google misses out on the generative AI boom, it may not be able to catch up, AI analyst Chirag Dekate told CNET’s Lisa Eadicicco earlier this month.
The makeover would come with difficulties, however. AI bot responses and user-generated content like TikTok-style videos can contain misinformation. Internal Google documents said the company will give users “attribution and literacy tools to enable confidence in making use of the content,” the Journal reported.
Concerns about AI prompted US Vice President Kamala Harris to meet Thursday with Pichai and the CEOs of Microsoft and Chat GPT-creator OpenAI to discuss the risks of the technology. Also this week, researcher Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “godfather of AI,” told The New York Times that he’d left Google so he could freely speak out about AI’s risks, including misinformation and the threat to people’s jobs. Hinton raised a red flag about a tech industry rush to produce AI products.
In response to the Journal’s report about a search makeover, a Google spokesperson sent CNET the following statement:
“Search has always been an incredibly dynamic, rapidly evolving sector with products constantly getting better. For years, we’ve been focused on a long-term approach to evolve Search, including using AI to enable new capabilities like multisearch, bringing more visual exploration features to the results page, and introducing new ways to surface a wide range of perspectives and content formats. We’ve talked at length about this work, including at events like Google I/O and Search On, and we look forward to building on these efforts in many ways in the years ahead. As Search evolves, delivering high quality information and supporting a healthy, open web will remain core to our approach.”
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