Google exec suggests Instagram and TikTok eat into key Google products, Search and Maps – TechCrunch
TikTok’s threat to Google’s business isn’t just limited to YouTube, as it turns out. Key Google services, including Search and Maps, are also being impacted by a growing preference for social media and videos as the first stop on the path of younger users to discovery, a Google executive today acknowledged, speaking in a industry events.
Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information organization, identified popular social apps in a broader conversation at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference about the future of Google products and the use its AI
In a discussion about the evolution of search, he pretty much didn’t notice that younger users often turn to apps like Instagram and TikTok rather than Google Search or Maps for discovery purposes.
“We keep learning, over and over, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and mindset we’re used to. Raghavan said, and added, “the questions they ask are completely different.”
These users don’t type keywords often, but are instead looking to discover content in new, more immersive ways, he said.
“In our study, almost 40% of teens, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”
The figure is a bit surprising, let’s face it. Google confirmed to us that his comments were based on internal research involving a survey of US users, ages 18 to 24. The data has not yet been made public, we were told, but could be added later on Google’s competition site, along with other stats – like how 55% of product searches on Amazon now start, for example.
While older internet users may not clear their minds on a social video app to search for a restaurant, this trend could erode Google’s core business of search and discovery over time – not to mention ads sold against those query types. . While younger users may launch some type of maps app for navigation purposes, this data suggests that they will no longer start their journey on Google. That means all the work Google has done over the years to organize, curate, and recommend different businesses-such as local restaurants-or its making discovery tools within Google Maps – this may be lost on younger internet users.
Raghavan also explained how younger people are generally interested in more “visually rich forms” of search and discovery, and that is not just limited to where to eat.
He pointed out that young people who go online today have never seen a paper map (oof, way to remember us!), but map products are designed to look like a paper map “stuck to the phone.” It does not meet the expectations of younger users and this is the wrong experience to be offered to them, he said.
“We need to create completely new expectations and that requires completely new … technology fundamentals,” Raghavan said.
For example, Google Maps now incorporates augmented reality to help users position themselves in their environment, instead of forcing users to figure out which way to go based on a blue dot flashing on the screen. The company also recently announced other enhancements to Google Maps at its developer conference Google I/O, where it showcased new 3D modes and immersive views, among other things, making it less Maps as a digital form of a paper map.
Raghavan also suggested that younger people’s need for visual content will change with Google Search. He believes it’s part of Search’s ongoing review, however. Previously, he explained, web users would type a few key keywords into a search engine to get a list of blue links in return. Later, search engines became capable of understanding natural language and then added capabilities for handling voice queries. In some countries, voice now drives 30% of all queries, the executive says, because new internet users don’t even bother typing.
Now, Google is looking at combining images and text as it envisions a future where users can hold their phone-or perhaps wear AR glasses-to start a search based on what they see.
Meanwhile, however, Google has to fight to not be the first stop for some users when they search for new places or information.
This trend, in fact, is becoming so clear that the tech giant confirmed last fall that it is working on deals that will allow it to index videos on Instagram and TikTok on Search. You can already see some of this progress-search for a keyword followed by the word “TikTok” and Google will return sets of TikTok video results before you see any standard webpages.
But Google has also started using AI to analyze web videos and direct users to better search results, Raghavan said.
For example, if you search for how to change a tire on Google, it will show you video results. And now, Google can use AI to analyze video components, so users can jump to the location where it explains how to loosen lug nuts or raise the jack. The company strives to make the analysis and understanding of the video be on par with the documents, Raghavan said.
But, he added, “gaining a level of deeper understanding is a journey we are still treading.”