Sep 26, 2018

Go deeper: Google's Discover wants to replace your news feed

Photo: Screenshot from Google

No one ever says "Let's see what's on Google" the way they might say "Let's see what's on Facebook" when they turn on their phones or computers. The search giant is hoping to change that, with the announcement Monday that it will offer a personalized feed of stories, items and links on the Google search home page on all mobile browsers.

Why it matters: After 20 years of dedication to its minimalist home screen, Google may be ready to embrace the shape of Facebook's News Feed, which holds users longer.

Google's search box invited active engagement — you had to initiate the process. The streams that Facebook's News Feed popularized offer a more passive experience: Just sit back, scroll down, and click when you feel like it.

  • Searches have a limit — they end when you find what you're after.
  • Streams are effectively infinite — they continue until your attention wanders or your battery dies.

The details: The new service, Google Discover, has been gestating under the name Google Feed.

The background: On a web that was overloading pages with attention-grabbing junk and ads even in 1998, when Google was born, the search engine made a name for itself with its pristine screen: A colorful logo, a search box, two buttons, and the vastness of global knowledge just beyond.

But over the next decade, "enter search term and click through" lost out to a different model of online interaction — the stream.

  • Pioneered by blogs and universalized by Facebook and Twitter, streams emphasized what was new and, later, what an algorithm calculated that you wanted to see.

At Google Discover's launch event on Monday, company execs referred to the new offering as a form of "queryless search" — a kind of content recommendation system that knows what you want before you tell it what you need.

What they know: Google certainly has plenty of information to drive Discover's choices. Particularly for users of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, Google probably knows more about you as an individual than Facebook does.

  • Facebook knows who you know and what you share with them.
  • Google knows what you know, what you're doing, and what you're learning about.

The bottom line: With Discover, Google will test the proposition that a feed based on deep awareness of your individual knowledge needs will serve you better than one based on social network cues and sharing — and that there are better ways to keep up on the news than Facebook.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,513,358 — Total deaths: 88,415 — Total recoveries: 329,329Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 430,376 — Total deaths: 14,739 — Total recoveries: 23,707Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Top Trump administration officials had been developing a plan to give cloth masks to huge numbers of Americans, but the idea lost traction amid heavy internal skepticism.
  4. States latest: New York has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe. Chicago's Cook County jail is largest-known source of coronavirus in U.S.
  5. Business: One-third of U.S. jobs are at risk of disappearing, mostly affecting low-income workers.
  6. World: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to put politics aside "if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”
  7. Environment: COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.
  8. Tech: A new report recommends stimulus spending to help close the digital divide revealed by social distancing.
  9. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: New York tops previous day's record death toll

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New York's death toll surged to its highest one-day total on Wednesday — beating the previous day's record. 779 people died in the state in 24 hours. The state has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe.

Why it matters: Public health officials have warned this would be a particularly deadly week for America, even as New York began to see declining trends of hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 57 mins ago - Health

The pandemic and pollution

New York City's skyline on a smoggy day in May 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.

Why it matters: Old-fashioned air pollution is almost certainly the single biggest environmental health threat, contributing to the deaths of some 7 million people a year according to the WHO, making it comparable to deaths from smoking.

Go deeperArrow4 hours ago - Health