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.

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