Google exec suggests Instagram and TikTok are eating into Google’s core products, Search and Maps

Comment

(GDD) China 2019 on September 10, 2019
Image Credits: Lyu Liang/VCG / Getty Images

The TikTok threat to Google’s business isn’t just limited to YouTube, as it turns out. Core Google services, including Search and Maps, are also being impacted by a growing preference for social media and videos as the first stop on younger users’ path to discovery, a Google exec acknowledged today, speaking at an industry event.

Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information organization, referenced the popular social apps in a broader conversation at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference about the future of Google’s products and its use of AI.

In a discussion about the evolution of search, he somewhat offhandedly noted that younger users were now often turning to apps like Instagram and TikTok instead of Google Search or Maps for discovery purposes.

“We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to.” Raghavan said, adding, “the queries they ask are completely different.”

These users don’t tend to type in keywords but rather look to discover content in new, more immersive ways, he said.

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

The figure sounds a bit shocking, we have to admit. Google confirmed to us his comments were based on internal research that involved a survey of U.S. users, ages 18 to 24. The data has not yet been made public, we’re told, but may later be added to Google’s competition site, alongside other stats — like how 55% of product searches now begin on Amazon, for example.

While older internet users may not be able to wrap their minds around turning to a social video app to find a restaurant, this trend could cut into Google’s core business of search and discovery over time — not to mention the ads sold against those sorts of queries. While younger users may eventually launch some sort of maps app for navigation purposes, this data indicates they don’t necessarily start their journey on Google anymore. That means all the work Google did over the years to organize, curate and recommend various businesses — such as local restaurants —  or its creation of discovery tools inside Google Maps — could be lost on these younger internet users.

Raghavan also explained how younger people were generally interested in more “visually rich forms” of search and discovery, and that wasn’t just limited to where to eat.

He pointed out that the young people coming online today had never seen a paper map (oof, way to make us feel old!), but maps products have been designed to look like a paper map that’s been “stuck on the phone.” This doesn’t meet younger users’ expectations and is the wrong experience to offer them, he said.

“We have to conjure up completely new expectations and that takes altogether new … technology underpinnings,” Raghavan noted.

For instance, Google Maps is now incorporating augmented reality to help users position themselves in their environment, instead of forcing users to figure out which way to go based on a blue dot flashing on the screen. The company also recently announced other improvements to Google Maps at its developer conference Google I/O, where it showed off new 3D modes and immersive views, among other things, that also make Maps less like a digital form of a paper map.

Raghavan also suggested younger people’s demand for visual content will change Google Search. He believed this is part of Search’s ongoing evaluation, however. Previously, he explained, web users would type in a couple of basic keywords into a search engine to get a list of blue links in return. Later, search engines became capable of understanding natural language and then added capabilities for handling voice queries. In some countries, voice now drives 30% of all queries, the exec noted, as new internet users didn’t even bother with typing.

Today, Google is looking toward combining images and text as it imagines a future where users could hold up their phone — or perhaps wear AR glasses — to start a search based on what they see.

Google’s new ‘multisearch’ features hint toward an AR glasses future

In the meantime, however, Google has to contend with no longer being some users’ first stop when they’re looking to discover new places or information.

This trend, in fact, was becoming so pronounced that the tech giant confirmed last fall it was working on deals that would allow it to index Instagram and TikTok videos in Search. You can see some of this progress already — search for a keyword followed by the word “TikTok” and Google will return rows of results of TikTok videos before you’ll see any standard webpages.

But Google has also begun to leverage AI to analyze videos on the web and direct users to richer search results, Raghavan said.

For example, if you search how to change a tire on Google, it will now show you video results. And now, Google is able to use AI to analyze the parts of the video, so users can jump to the location where it explains how to loosen the lug nuts or raise the jack. The company is working to make its analysis and understanding of video to be on par with documents, Raghavan said.

But, he added, “getting that level of deeper understanding is a journey we’re still on.”

More TechCrunch

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

6 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?