Google is Trying to Make the Best App Ever for News Junkies
And it's doing so with a counterintuitive approach.
Google can seem to have an app for everything: Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Wallet, Google Goggles, you name it. But did you know there’s also just a straight-up Google app that’s simply called Google?
It might appear a little redundant, considering the search engine is already easy enough to find reach in your web browser (which, yes, might be Google Chrome). But an updated version released Wednesday unleashes a new feature to deliver personalized news feeds to users, ostensibly as a direct rival to Apple and its own News app, and to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. And Google’s app is available for both Android and iOS, giving it access to the two largest smartphone consumer pools.
The news feed, first made available in a limited version in December for Android users only, essentially uses machine learning to curate a collection of news stories for the user based on their search history and selected preferences.
Perhaps one of the strangest parts about the news feed is that there is no bias against older posts. Users may be presented with posts that are several months old, and for Google, that’s entirely the point. The apps algorithms prioritize relevancy over recency, as opposed to what Facebook and Twitter attempt to do. If you’re into a particular band, an old interview from years before might surface on your feed.
That feature is precisely what Google hopes attracts news junkies to its app, at the expense of Facebook, Flipboard, and others.
The news feed replaces the old Google Now tool, which also delivered personalized information with regards to weather, traffic, sports, and other things. Those things will now be funneled into a new tab called “updates,” which will show off a stream of “cards” that present that information to the user.
Feeds are customizable based on topics and events they’re interested in, ranging from Donald Trump to the Chicago Cubs. Users can follow a specific subject or story, but they can also ell the app they are “done with this story” if they want to skip future updates or avoid seeing more articles from a particular outlet.
As of now, there is no way to follow specific outlets or publishers, but it may only be a matter of time before Google rolls out that option. After all, Apple News already makes that possible.
In addition, the feed does not present mature or questionable content, so if you spend a lot of time Googling for things you wouldn’t want your mom to know about, you don’t have to worry about your news feed publicizing those things either.
The feed is currently available for mobile apps right now, but the company plans to put it out on Google’s main web page later on.