Google adds activity cards and collections to search result…


Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google on Monday announced new features for its iconic search engine, which turns 20 years old this week. 

The goal is to help people as they do longer-term searches, like planning trips, seeking health advice and making employment choices — things that won’t be answered necessarily by one search query.

One new feature is called an “activity card,” which will show up in your search results if you’ve done repeat searches on one topic. For example, if you’re planning a camping trip, your activity card will show past searches, related searches, and other content suggestions. Another new feature called “collections” lets you save past searches. 

Google says the changes are aimed at evolving search as people change the way they look for stuff online.

“Search is not perfect. And we’re under no illusion it is,” Ben Gomes, Google’s head of search, said during an event in San Francisco. “But you have our commitment we’ll make it better every day.”

The 20th anniversary milestone comes as Google’s search engine has come under intense scrutiny. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google employees had considered tweaking the search engine to surface pro-immigration content after President Donald Trump’s travel ban last year that barred immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. 

In response, Google CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly told employees in a memo, “Recent news stories reference an internal email to suggest that we would compromise the integrity of our Search results for a political end. This is absolutely false.”

Much of the strongest pushback against Google has come from Washington, DC. Last month, Trump accused Google of political bias. He tweeted that Google’s search results are “RIGGED,” saying the company is “suppressing voices of Conservatives.”

“I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people,” he told reporters later that day. “Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful.”

Last month, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to re-examine Google’s search and digital advertising practices, calling reports of anticompetitive conduct by the company “disquieting.”

Google has also been accused of using its search engine to promote liberal politics. Also last month, Trump tweeted a video claiming Google promoted former President Barack Obama’s State of the Union addresses every January but not his. Trump added the hashtag #StopTheBias.

Google denied the accusation, saying the search engine’s homepage did indeed promote Trump’s address this past January. Google said it didn’t promote either Trump’s or Obama’s addresses from their first years in office because those speeches aren’t technically considered State of the Union addresses. (A screenshot from the Internet Archive, which keeps a record of what appears on web domains backed up Google’s explanation.)

This is a developing story…

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