Google’s search app will begin promoting and autoplaying short-form videos in coming months, giving a TikTok flavor to one of Google’s most widely used tools. The company showed off the technology Wednesday at its Search On 2022 event, a showcase of new features coming to Search and Maps.
With the update, Google aims to blend more videos and imagery into search results, giving Google’s response a richer look. Google draws the results from a mix of sources, the company said in a blog post.
For example, search results for a destination such as Oaxaca, Mexico, will show a wider range of information that Google deems relevant, such as how long a flight might take, the weather, or information from Wikipedia about popular destinations. Scrolling down, users can see photos of local markets and videos people have uploaded, giving a sense of what the streets of Oaxaca are like.
The change continues Google’s expansion beyond just showing text linking to some websites. Imagery and other material can provide useful information, but the approach also means people often won’t tap or click beyond the search results to potential information sources like Wikipedia, travel sites or TikTok. That’s long been a point of contention for websites that rely on Google searches as a source of traffic.
The change in Search comes as the company is tackling competition from short-form video site TikTok. The Chinese-owned app has become a search engine unto itself, with younger viewers jumping to TikTok to check quick videos on subjects like restaurants and travel destinations. In 2021, TikTok also dethroned Google as the year’s most popular website. Google launched YouTube Shorts in 2020 to take on TikTok, and it’s also started a competitive program to pay partners, to try to attract creators.
Also at its Search On 2022 event, Google unveiled new features for Lens, a way to search for information with either a photo or a phone’s camera.
The search giant is making Lens more powerful by letting people hold up their phone and view information about their surrounding area in real time, Google said. For example, if people are in Paris, they can hold up their camera looking down a street and see what types of restaurants are down the road or if there’s an ATM, all in an augmented reality layer.
Food is also becoming a priority in Search, with Google making it easier to find specific types of foods or pull up restaurants that fit a certain vibe. Immersive View in Maps can also show 3D views of an area and give people an inside tour of what a restaurant is like inside.