Google has begun experimenting with an entirely new format for search results, which could eventually let any brand, celebrity, or organization have a dedicated Twitter-like feed built right into the company’s search engine. Google first started employing it last month by letting presidential campaigns post lengthy debate rebuttals — and later by curating candidates’ stances on key issues like gun control and immigration. The design of these search results is similar to Google’s mobile “cards,” which can be swiped as well as clicked or tapped on to expand for more information.
Now the same tools are being extended to small businesses and could potentially be offered to celebrities and bigger-name brands. The change, which Google confirmed to The Vergewas a test, was noticed first by search expert Mike Blumenthal, who was searching for engagement ring stores in Buffalo, New York and came across a specially designed advertisement for local seller Andrew Jewelers. Clicking on one of Andrew Jewelers’ posts, which are curated into a Twitter feed-like stream of ads, opens up a dedicated full-screen webpage with text and photos. You can also share the individual posts from the search results page, but you can’t like or comment on any of them. You could imagine this feature working for, say, Kanye West and his clothing line.
The initiative looks similar to a new product called Google Posts, which now has its own dedicated website. (A Google representative told The Verge that the initiative is not called Google Posts, and does not have a name.) The company calls Posts an “experimental new podium on Google” where you can “now communicate with text, images and videos directly” on the search engine. The page says it’s limited to the 2016 US presidential campaign. “In the future, we plan to make it available to other prominent figures and organizations. If you’re interested, please join the waitlist,” the website reads. It looks like the expansion has already started.
Google’s push to create new and more dynamic search results could help it establish both a social presence and a new advertising product within its most used piece of software. Google’s oft-forgotten social network, Google+, remains woefully out of the picture, and the company has increasingly been looking for new methods to keep the web relevant in the age of the mobile app. So it would make sense for Google to extend the same powerful search and social features it’s given to presidential candidates to brands and other high-profile people. Google says it does not plan on charging for this feature.