Google’s Fresh Spin on Search: AI & Notes

The Gist

  • Revolutionary search tools. Google unveils groundbreaking changes including public notes, AI responses, and ‘Follow’ feature for dynamic, user-centric search experience.
  • Community-driven insights. Google’s new ‘Notes’ feature empowers users to enhance search results with personal insights and recommendations, fostering a collaborative information-sharing environment.
  • AI reshaping search. Google’s integration of generative AI into search represents a significant shift, offering more complex query handling and potential changes in user interaction with search results.

For years, Google dominated search with little opposition. The format faced little disruption, always a bunch of blue links. And the company’s multi-billion dollar deals with Apple cemented its lead. But its comfortable perch is starting to fade. A U.S. Justice Department lawsuit exposed its distribution practices, opening it to competition. And generative AI tools threaten to upend the search format and reshuffle the playfield.

Google Revamps Search With User Notes, AI

In this moment, Google’s experimenting with bold new changes that may meaningfully alter the search experience. It’s started allowing people to leave publicly visible notes on search results in a test announced recently. It’s added an option to follow specific search queries, pushing new information vs. requiring repeated searches. And it continues to test generative AI results that answer questions in natural language.

“This is the most exciting time in my whole career,” Google Search VP Cathy Edwards told me in an interview on Big Technology Podcast recently.

Search is Google’s cash spigot. It generates most of its revenue and funds the company’s big bets. All those Googley things — the experimental products, research, moonshots and shareholder returns — wouldn’t be possible without search’s margins. Tweaking the recipe is risky. Yet the company seems ready (or compelled) to try.

Tweaking the recipe is risky. Chinnapong on Google Notes

Related Article: What Google Search Generative Experience Means for Marketers

Google’s New Feature: Notes on Search Results

Notes, which Google released as an experiment recently, might be its boldest potential tweak. It effectively places an internet comment section on top of the results page. If you search for a recipe that calls for meat, for instance, someone can append a Note sharing a vegetarian substitute. Search for a website with timely information, and someone can add a Note when it’s outdated. If one website is easy to navigate and another is a nightmare, you can add a Note helping others determine which to visit.

Related Article: Google, Generative Search and the Web’s Uncertain Future

Google Notes: Guided by User Insights

“Fundamentally, people want to hear about information from other people,” Edwards said. Notes is intended to help them guide each other to the best information.

Internet comments tend to get out of hand, so Google’s taking some precautions to keep Notes civil. The team’s been studying from its counterparts at YouTube, Edwards said, which cleaned up its once-horrid comments section. “We’re best friends now,” Edwards said of the relationship. Expect similar filters and thumbs-up and down options on Notes so the best reach the top. 

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