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Google wants to keep you away from Instagram and TikTok by showing you videos from Instagram and TikTok

Published Dec 30th, 2020 6:50AM EST
Google Search
Image: Teerasan/Adobe

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  • Google is piloting a new feature for its mobile Search apps, a Short Videos carousel that would surface Instagram and TikTok videos relevant to the user’s searches.
  • The goal of the feature is to keep users inside the Search app on Android and iPhone for a longer time.
  • The Short Videos section would let users click through to the video they want, but the clip would play on the web rather than inside the corresponding mobile app.

In its bid to keep people as much as possible on its search pages rather than other places, such as addictive apps like Instagram and TikTok with their infinite scrolls, Google has come up with a new trick for Search that it’s currently testing. Results might soon feature a row of videos taken directly from Instagram and TikTok, which might seem contrary to what Google is looking to achieve here. But click on any of those results, and you’ll be taken to the web version of the respective app, not the actual app, where there’s a risk you’ll be sucked down the rabbit hole again. That way, Google might keep you on its search pages instead while still offering a quick, viral, social media fix.

The new feature can already be spotted, as a new video carousel will appear at the top of the Google app on Android and iPhone. TechCrunch explains the feature expands on Google’s Short Videos feature launched last year inside Google discover.

The feature is also different from the Stories feature launched in October. The “short stories” feature surfaces video content from some of Google’s partners, including Forbes, USA Today, Vice, Now This, Bustle, Thrillist, and others.

The new Short Videos carousel will only work with social media apps. Aside from the popular Instagram and TikTok apps, the Search section will include clips from Tangi, Trell, and YouTube. It’s unclear whether Google inked any deals with either Facebook or TikTok to gain access to the content, or it’s just using its own indexing engine to power it.

Google Search
Screenshot from the Google Search app on iPhone shows the new Short Videos carousel. Image source: TechCrunch

TechCrunch uses the example above for a “packers” search to explain how the Short Videos section would appear to the user:

We found the Short Videos carousel appears when you scroll past the Google Knowledge Base box for the Green Bay Packers, followed by the the scores, Top Stories, Twitter results, Top Results, Images, Videos and other content, like a listing of the players, standings and more.

It’s unclear when the feature will be available to all users and whether a similar version will launch on the web. A Google spokesperson told the blog that the feature is only tested on mobile devices in a limited, early-stage mode.

There’s one potentially huge advantage to this feature, and that’s finding that absolutely killer clip of that funny dog/cat/baby/insert search term that you haven’t saved while you were exploring the dark side of Instagram and TikTok.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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