Well, summer this year seems to have a lot of changes in store for the world of digital. Google have made waves by announcing that they’re about to carry out the biggest change to their homepage in years.
Due to reach us in the UK at some point within the next seven days, the new addition is that of a ‘news feed’ on Google’s mobile homepage, though the company released a statement saying they have no plans to bring it to desktop…yet. So, how’s the new page going to look?
Google is essentially changing its mobile homepage from its traditionally minimalist design, and upgrading it with a news feed very similar to Facebook’s.
Rather than encountering just a search bar, your news feed will be unique to you. Google will use advanced algorithms to update you on the topics it thinks you’d like to see, and you can give it the occasional nudge in the right direction by personalising it yourself.
(Incidentally, this is one of the way Google is tying it into Google Posts.)
As of the launch, when you visit the new homepage on mobile, underneath the search bar you’ll now be greeted by four icons:
‘Weather’ and ‘Eat & Drink’ both use location data to give you accurate information, giving you handy information on whether a storm’s brewing or alternatively which good restaurants are nearby.
On the other hand, both ‘Sports’ and ‘Entertainment’ look for a little more input from you, the user. Take Entertainment for example. You can tell it that you’re a fan of superhero movies, in which case it’ll prioritise, say, breaking stories about the new Avengers movie. Or if you’re a cricket fan, you can specify on the sports tab that’s what you’d like to see.
If you choose not to give Google this sort of information, though, instead it will serve up the most generally popular or trending stories.
With news stories, meanwhile, Google will have a Related Stories tray underneath each article, which you can swipe through horizontally. Not only does this show you more stories you might be interested in, but it also makes an effort to show you differing points of view on the same news story. Providing this sort of objectivity is important to Google, as it’s trying to avoid accusations of spreading ‘fake news’ of the kind that’s plagued Facebook in recent months.
So that’s the basics covered! In case you feel a bit nervous about this kind of personalisation – and there will be some who do – don’t worry, Google’s not forgotten you. Its options for customisation give you a high degree of control over what it chooses to remember about you. For example, you can tell it not to factor in certain one-off searches to its algorithms (such as advice about a health issue).
The algorithm is also programmed to avoid serving up controversial material – such as pornographic content or anything that could be classed as hate speech – when you visit the homepage. When collecting information to tailor your feed, it also avoids more sensitive aspects of your searches, such as your religion or sexual orientation.
The idea for Google behind all this, in the words of one of their chief engineers, is that “the more you use Google, the better your feed will be”. It’s fair to say that with the vast majority of the market share, Google is still the undisputed leader of search. The brand-new feed aims to not only answer our questions, but even to begin pre-empting them entirely as it learns more about us – much as many voice-search devices are doing. Modern mobile users are all about convenience, and in that regard Google has no intention of getting left behind.
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