Google’s Inside Search event in San Francisco this week is revealing some interesting new enhancements to the company’s search efforts. Not surprisingly, much of these improvements are about getting results quickly and more efficiently, but more fascinating is how this new thinking is influenced by mobile search efforts and the Android OS.
Take voice search for example. A stalwart on Android phones since day one, it’s no surprise that the Chrome browser will now allow users to search via the microphones most likely already in-built to their laptops.
Then there’s Instant search. Of course, we all want our search results quicker and don’t want to plow through pages of irrelevant things. If it’s pretty darn obvious what we’re looking for, it’s helpful to be able to access it quickly, and once again, the desire for gathering information swiftly and efficiently is an essential part of the mobile experience too, where information may be accessed while cell phone signals are weak or time is of the essence.
The new image search enhancements can also trace their roots from Android too, I think. For a while now, Android (and indeed iOS via the Google Search app) devices have offered Google Goggles: Take a photo of a building, book, object, etc. and see if Google can match it and tell you what it is. Now, that similar technology will be on their desktop, web-based search too: Drag and drop an image or enter its URL and see if you can get a match.
Most interesting of all, however, is a small change to Google’s mobile home page which you can see on you Android phone when you visit www.google.com/m (often the default for many devices). Now, at the bottom of the screen are three embedded icons for restaurants, coffee, bars and a ‘more’ option, which leads you to the Places tab where you can discover even more cool things nearby.
Google places much faith in Places
The evolution of Google’s Places from minor app to major part of their web search has been fascinating. If I remember correctly (and sometimes my memory escapes me), Places was, at first, simply a downloadable app from the Android Market. Pretty soon after that, it was pre-installed on many devices after an Android software update, but it was still just an app you had to launch. A little later, it disappeared as an app and got fully integrated into Google Maps, which was a logical move and showed its importance to the company in its local search efforts. And now, hey presto, a few months later, Places is at the forefront of Google’s search efforts on mobile devices.
After all, people will often want information on the closest restaurants or hotels near them, and while apps like Yelp or TripAdvisor (amongst many others) can help you locate them, Google’s smart enough to realize that all it should take is a simple search from anywhere to bring up all the details you need.