Google has announced it is revamping its mobile search engine by turning up results from within apps that don’t have matching web content. Additionally, the company will let users stream certain apps without having to download them.
Google has been testing various levels of app indexing for the last two years, but until now it has only indexed those that have matching web content, meaning users could always go to an app’s corresponding website to find the same information. Now, the search engine will display results that were previously locked inside apps, such as certain discounts that are hard to find outside of software.
"Because we recognize that there's a lot of great content that lives only in apps, starting today, we'll be able to show some 'app-first' content in Search as well," Google Engineering Manager Jennifer Lin wrote in a blog post. "For example, if you need a hotel for your spur-of-the-moment trip to Chicago, search results will now include results from the HotelTonight app."
The company is also introducing the ability to stream certain apps that users don’t have installed, right from Google Search, providing they have a good wi-fi connection. This means you’ll be able to perform tasks - such as booking a taxi or planning a holiday - that were previously only possible by downloading the associated app.
When these apps appear in the search results they will have a ‘Stream’ button next to them. The feature only works on Android devices with the two latest versions of the software, and tablets are not yet supported.
"With one tap on a 'Stream' button next to the HotelTonight app result, you'll get a streamed version of the app, so that you can quickly and easily find what you need, and even complete a booking, just as if you were in the app itself. And if you like what you see, installing it is just a click away," said Lin.
The feature works by running the apps on virtual machines on Google Cloud Platform, using the same technology as the Google Cloud Test Lab, a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. “It’s similar to a streamed video, but interactive, with swipe, tap, etc. signals being sent to the streamed app in essentially real time. We are experimenting with a few apps initially to get the user experience right, but we are looking to scale to more apps soon.”
The improved app indexing and streaming option will initially only be enabled for nine launch partners, including HotelTonight, Weather, Chimani, Gormey, My Horoscope, Visual Anatomy Free, Useful Knots, Daily Horoscope, and New York Subway, but Lin did say to “stay tuned for more as we expand this.”
App makers will likely be hoping that this streaming option will allow their products to reach more smartphone owners; and after trying out an app by streaming it, users will decide it’s worth downloading the full thing.