Google’s 20th Birthday and Latest Search Updates

By the FAST team

This week Google celebrated its 20th birthday and also announced a number of updates to its core search service – further advancing its visual search offerings and the ranking algorithm for Google Images.

Details and Implications:
With platforms like Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, and Amazon accelerating their visual search capabilities and investing in AI-powered tools, Google announced a slew of updates that will start using AI and machine learning to enhance Google Image search for both e-commerce behaviour and social interaction with the platform.

Here are the key updates:

Google Discover: Google’s personalised news feed is now called ‘Discover’ and will be accessed via the Google homepage on mobile and desktop. ‘Discover’ will do more to surface relevant content based on your interests, search history and Stories from publishers you follow.

Stories: Google’s answer to Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories and Facebook Stories. This new feature allows publishers to create and publish social media-style AMP images and videos to Google Images and the Discover feed. In addition to AMP Stories, Google will also be using AI to create ‘tappable’ Stories (where users can tap to see the next story) about specific topics, similar to Snapchat’s Discover feed or Instagram’s Explore page.

Algorithm Ran­­­king: With a new ranking algorithm in place, Image Search will ensure results are much more relevant and will now feature more ‘evergreen content’ like recipes and DIY content. Furthermore, the updated algorithm will take into account factors such as the authority of the website an image is found on, alongside relevance and quality of the image. Tags will also be added to each image result, indicating whether the image is shoppable or not, further enhancing Google’s e-commerce ecosystem.

Google Lens: A new AI-powered feature will be directly integrated into Google Images, allowing users to search for specific items within photos. Google Image results will now include a Lens button on the bottom of each picture. Tapping on the Lens button will show users interesting aspects of each photo and will show similar images based on that. The AI integration also lets users crop a specific part of an image to search on it. For example, a user can select a bookcase in the background of the picture to tell Lens to find similar products. Lens is only available on mobile devices for now.


Google has spent 20 years at the forefront of search and this latest update is designed to ensure that it remains there. These changes are in part driven by younger users that have very different expectations of how to interact and search and discover digital content and which are more used to doing this using social media platforms than search engines. Google needs to keep ahead of the competition that are investing heavily in visual search and which are providing more competition for ad dollars. Google hopes that these updates will help achieve this.

Further Reading:
Mashable / Google Blog / The Verge