Google recently launched a personalizednews feed on the company’s flagship app, and it will soon rollout to browser versions ofgoogle.com.
The update is a huge deal for a couple of reasons: First, it will be the most radical change to Google’s famously simple home page since 1996, or at least since the its big push behindGoogle+, which began in 2011 an has since been deemed a failure. It also positions Google to compete directly with the FacebookNews Feed, which generally provides the same type of information like sports scores, viral videos, and news.
But most importantly, the takeaway from this is that Google is trying to protect itself from larger shifts in the way people spend time online. Digital services are becoming increasingly more reliant on artificial intelligence to predict what you’re looking for in that exact moment. Google is no exception.
Take, for example, how companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Uber have all recently introduced artificial intelligence into their core products, working to predict your requests before you even type them in or say them.
This is a major problem for Google, a company that is still heavily reliant on search traffic for its revenue. Even though Google has launched plenty of other products besides search, few of them make any money.
In the first quarter of 2017, Google still made99.9 percentof its total revenue from search, display, and video advertising. This is one of themajor reasonsthe company reorganized and became Alphabet in 2015. It was time to start holding the company’s other products accountable for making money. The newly formed company Alphabet even organizes itsquarterly earningsin two columns: “Google” and “Other Bets.” That is just how important search is.
But predictive artificial intelligence is slowly eating away people’s need to search for information online, and that trend will only grow over the next few years.
Inabout a decade, experts predict artificial intelligence is going to perform better than humans in many complicated tasks, and it’s easy to imagine how Google Search could become a casualty of this seemingly unstoppable trend.
The search bar as we know it might soon look like an old relic from the past. Instead, we will likely be fed pertinent information based on our location, the time, and our general usage habits. Search will always be available — but its relevance will fade over time as artificial intelligence becomes stronger.
Google knows its search and advertising business can’t last forever, especially in its current form. Its parent company Alphabet desperately seeks a more diverse revenue stream, and ideally, someday, it could make money from all of its various products.
This doesn’t mean that Google Search will be wiped off the face of the planet — but search as we know it will die. The new update to the Google app is a rather small, iterative update, but it will quickly spread to other products (if we’re to take Google’s word for it). It’s easy to overlook, but in my eyes, it marks the beginning of the slow demise of Google Search.
The question now for Google is, will the new “feed” be the beginning of something else?