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

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

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.

2 days 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