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It’s the End of Google Search As We Know It

Google Search is about to fundamentally change—for better or worse. To align with Alphabet-owned Google’s grand vision of artificial intelligence, and prompted by competition from AI upstarts like ChatGPT, the company’s core product is getting reorganized, more personalized, and much more summarized by AI.

At Google’s annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California, today, Liz Reid showed off these changes, setting her stamp early on in her tenure as the new head of all things Google search. (Reid has been at Google a mere 20 years, where she has worked on a variety of search products.) Her AI-soaked demo was part of a broader theme throughout Google’s keynote, led primarily by CEO Sundar Pichai: AI is now underpinning nearly every product at Google, and the company only plans to accelerate that shift.

“In the era of Gemini we think we can make a dramatic amount of improvements to search,” Reid said in an interview with WIRED ahead of the event, referring to the flagship generative AI model launched late last year. “People’s time is valuable, right? They deal with hard things. If you have an opportunity with technology to help people get answers to their questions, to take more of the work out of it, why wouldn’t we want to go after that?”

Google AI

Google’s new search features make it possible to use video and voice to make complex queries.

Courtesy of Google

It’s as though Google took the index cards for the screenplay it’s been writing for the past 25 years and tossed them into the air to see where the cards might fall. Also: The screenplay was written by AI.

These changes to Google Search have been long in the making. Last year the company carved out a section of its Search Labs, which lets users try experimental new features, for something called Search Generative Experience. The big question since has been whether, or when, those features would become a permanent part of Google Search. The answer is, well, now.

Google’s search overhaul comes at a time when critics are becoming increasingly vocal about what feels to some like a degraded search experience, and for the first time in a long time, the company is feeling the heat of competition, from the massive mashup between Microsoft and OpenAI. Smaller startups like Perplexity, You.com, and Brave have also been riding the generative AI wave and getting attention, if not significant mindshare yet, for the way they’ve rejiggered the whole concept of search.

Automatic Answers

Google says it has made a customized version of its Gemini AI model for these new Search features, though it declined to share any information about the size of this model, its speeds, or the guardrails it has put in place around the technology.

This search-specific spin on Gemini will power at least a few different elements of the new Google Search. AI Overviews, which Google has already been experimenting with in its labs, is likely the most significant. AI-generated summaries will now appear at the top of search results.

One example from WIRED’s testing: In response to the query “Where is the best place for me to see the northern lights?” Google will, instead of listing web pages, tell you in authoritative text that the best places to see the northern lights, aka the aurora borealis, are in the Arctic Circle in places with minimal light pollution. It will also offer a link to NordicVisitor.com. But then the AI continues yapping on below that, saying “Other places to see the northern lights include Russia and Canada’s northwest territories.”


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