Two New Search Technologies that Google Stole from… Google
Google held an "Inside Search" event yesterday and made some interesting advancements to the desktop search experience. What is most interesting about these new features is two out of the three advancements announced yesterday by Google, have been available for months if not longer on Android. Reminder, Android is Google's mobile operating system.
As Colleen Taylor on Gigaom points out, this is a clear indication that we just witnessed a shift in Google's strategy from a desktop search company to a company that launches new features on mobile first, and desktop second.
Two of the new features introduced yesterday that have been available on mobile until today are Voice Search and search by image.
I am no expert on the topic of search patterns, and if you would have asked me years ago whether Google would succeed in its attempt to enter the advertising world, I would have said no way. Having said that, there is something a little strange about this new feature. While, Voice Search has been available on Android for a long time, the concept of searching using your voice actually makes sense on a mobile phone.
However, on a desktop, the main method of interfacing with our desktop still remains a mouse and keyboard, whether it is wireless, multitouch, or any other one of the many iterations, mice and keyboards are still not dead.
Yes, most people have a microphone and a webcam attached or built into their computer, but searching Google by talking to your computer can get a little awkward. Maybe it is just me, but, while Voice Search on Android has been a wild success and the company says that "every single day people speak more than two years worth of voice to our system.", something tells me Voice Search on the desktop will not take off at the same rate.
Search by Image
I am not usually a pessimist, but this technology confuses me all together. I have tried Google Goggles on Android and have not succeeded in coming up with a practical use for this interesting technology. If you are not familiar, Google Goggles allows you to search Google using an image.
The new desktop search by image technology, which will be built into Chrome right alongside the Voice Search icon, will allow users to enter a Web URL of a photo and the search engine will then identify it for you. Just like on the mobile, you can also upload a photo you took and Google will identify it for you.
I guess this technology can be used to take a picture of a landmark and having Google identify your location for you. Although, if you have access to the Web and an Android device, Google Maps might be a better option. If we are talking about desktop, I can think of a pretty long list of things I would do before taking a photo of my location, uploading it to Google, and counting on the results to help me find my way.
FYI, my SEO and search guru Branko Rihtman replied to my question regarding practical uses of this technology with two scenarios. Read his tweet here.
Finally, Google also announced Instant Pages, which to me, is probably the most relevant and practical new feature of the three. Instant Pages utilizes Google's prediction algorithm to basically guess what you are going to type, and which result to your query you are going to click.
Yes, that is pretty scary, but the company did not hide in yesterday's event that they "know where you are going to click". So Instant Pages, which is now only available on the desktop will basically display a preview of the page Google thinks you want to see based on what you have started typing. Yes, before you even finished the word or phrase you are searching for, Google apparently knows what you are going to write, what you want to see, and it actually displays a preview of the page, all before you finished typing.
While this is definitely impressive technology, the big question here is how accurate it is going to be. Something tells me, based on my own personal search patterns that if Google loads the top result, this new feature is going to become a burden as opposed to a time-saver. Rarely do I find the result I am looking for in the top result of a Google search, but again, it might just me.
Instant Pages is expected to make its way to mobile phones as well, and the concept of displaying a full page result based on a search in real time, kind of reminds me of an up and coming mobile app called DoAT, but the company claims it is very different.
Whatever the case may be, the most interesting part of yesterday's event as far as we are concerned is that Google released features for mobile and only then pushed them to their desktop users. What does that say about the importance of mobile in Google's overall strategy, and more importantly, what does it say about the future of the desktop? Will the mobile phone eventually replace it?