Times have changed.
People are increasingly searching the web from their mobile devices rather than their desktops, and Google knows this, so it's updating Google search in a way that allows the search engine to find and surface content from apps installed on your phone. And if you don't have a specific app installed on your smartphone, it will offer you the option to “stream” the app instead.
Confused? No worries. We've explained everything you need to know...
Why is Google Search changing?
Google thinks the best answers to your questions might be buried in an app - even ones that you don’t even have installed yet. So, it's adding new ways for you to search for and find content from apps without having to download them in the first place.
Similar to how it indexes webpages, Google started indexing content from apps two years ago: "We now have over 100 billion deep links into apps in our index - including some popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb or Pinterest," explained Google.
Thus, with this update, you'll be able to search on Google and find the best answers whether they're from an app or a website. Previously, Google was only able to show information from websites (as well as information from apps that have matching web content).
A lot of great content only lives in app, and Google wants you to have access to that information when you search on Google. For example, if you need a hotel for a trip to Chicago, search results will now include results from the HotelTonight app installed on your phone.
What if you don't have an app installed?
This is where things get interesting: let's say you're visiting Arches National Park and want to search for details about the scenic drive there. Well, the Chimani app will have all the information you need, but it would be a hassle to download the app and then search in Google.
What's the point of that right? You might as well just use the app and forgo Google Search altogether. Well, with this update, you'll start seeing an option to “stream” some apps you don’t have installed, right from Google Search. You just have to be on good Wi-Fi.
For instance, with one tap on a “Stream” button next to the Chimani app result, you’ll get a streamed version of the app, so that you can easily find the information you're looking for and even access other in-app features just as if you were in the app itself.
In addition, if you like the app, Google will give you the option to install it. Keep in mind Google's app-streaming feature within Google search is still in beta.
How is all this streaming stuff possible?
Google said it is using new cloud-based technology.
Rajan Patel, the director leading the app indexing team, told TechCrunch that "streamed” apps run on virtual machines through Google’s cloud platform and can respond to your touch similar to how native apps do.
He also painted this streaming stuff to be more of an experiment. Google wants to see how users respond to it before the company embarks on a worldwide rollout or even an expansion to iOS.
Which apps support streaming?
Google is only working with a small group of partners, such as HotelTonight, Chimani, Daily Horoscope, New York MTA Subway Map, and others. It plans to add more partners over time.
When can you start streaming apps?
Google said you will have to be in the Google app on your phone for any of this to work, at least initially. Also, your phone must run Android Lollipop or higher and have a Wi-Fi connection. The ability to search and stream stuff from apps is only live in the US for now, as well.
Want to know more?
Check out Pocket-lint's Google hub for more developments.