Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said he wants to offer a personalised Google to everyone who interacts with the company’s services.
On Wednesday, the search giant will take a big step toward realising that vision. It’s launching Google Feed, a stream of news articles, videos, and links customised for individual users that it will deliver through the Google app for iPhone and Android devices.
As you may guess from the name, Google Feed is a lot like Facebook’s trademark news feed, the place where many millions of the social network’s users get the latest updates from their friends and about the world at large. Given that Facebook is Google’s biggest rival in both online video and online advertising, it’s no wonder the search giant is offering up its own version.
The difference: Where Facebook’s news feed relies largely on links posted by users’ friends, Google Feed is powered by the company’s all-powerful algorithm — and all the data it’s collected on individual users. Google already has a pretty good handle on the stuff you search for online, and now it’s going to use that knowledge to show you what it thinks you need to know.
“It’s not about what your friends are interested in, which is what other feeds might be,” Google VP of Engineering Ben Gomes said at a press conference at the company’s San Francisco offices earlier this week.
Oh, and if you were wondering: No, Google Feed won’t serve you ads, at least at launch. So, for the time being, that’s another difference between Facebook and the Google Feed.
Now and again
This isn’t Google’s first crack at offering a news feed. Google Feed is essentially an upgraded version of Google Now, which has been in operation since 2012. Like Google Now, Google Feed is designed to be a one-stop shop for whatever you might need to know in that moment.
The mission, said Google VP of Engineering Shashi Khakur, is “keeping you in the know when you’re not searching.”
For instance, if you’re interested in Spider-Man, Google Feed will show you not only the newest trailer for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” but also showtimes for the movie at the nearest theatre.
There are some niftier things, too. Years ago, Google Senior Product Manager Karen Corby geeked out on “The Glass Castle,” a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. She was really into it, searching for everything she could learn about the book and its author.
“And then I kind of forgot about it. Because it was a while ago,” Corby said.
A Hollywood adaptation of “The Glass Castle” is now in the works. Although Corby wasn’t aware of it and hadn’t thought about the book in a while, Google Feed remembered her earlier enthusiasm for it and posted a trailer of the movie to her feed.
But Google Feed isn’t just good at remembering your old passions. Because Google has insight into much of your online life, it can also give you information when it thinks you are in the right time and place to receive it. For example, if it detects that you just booked a trip to London, it might fill your feed with recommendations on things to do on your vacation.
“We expect this to be a strong differentiator over other information streams out there,” says Khakur.
Although Google will initially offer Feed through its smartphone apps, it plans to eventually offer a web version of the service for PC users. Owners of Google’s Pixel phone will be able to access Feed through the Pixel Launcher by just swiping right from the home screen.
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