Google Search Announces New App Streaming Feature

Today Google has announced a new feature in Google Search that could well be one of the biggest advancements in web searching since, well, forever.  I appreciate this sounds hyperbolic but think about what they announced in a larger context.  The announcement today essentially is made up of two parts.  First, you will be able to slipstream content from apps directly from within Google Search on your Android devices without actually having to leave the search itself.  Second, if you don’t have the app installed, you can stream content that is found only in the app to the search results to allow you to complete a task or see that app-only content.

Think about it:  You can get content from say a services app without actually having to have that app installed when you search for that content on your phone.

Mind. Blown.

Let me first clarify that Google has been indexing apps in Google Search for over two years now.  That in itself is not new and in fact they have been deep linking to those apps in your search

Google Search App Streaming
Google Search App Streaming


We started indexing the content of apps two years ago, so that when people search on Google, they can find the best results whether they’re in an app or on the web. We now have over 100 billion deep links into apps in our index — including some popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb or Pinterest — and 40% of searches people do on Android surface app content.

But up until now, Google has only been able to show information from apps that have matching web content. Because we recognize that there’s a lot of great content that lives only in apps, starting today, we’ll be able to show some “app-first” content in Search as well

The example that is given in the post is if you are searching for a hotel at the last minute in Chicago.  Now you will get hotel search results in Google Search but you will also get content from the HotelTonight app right in the mix.  From there you can interact with the app right from within your search results to find a hotel, room and book that room all within the search results.  There is no need to go to the app directly.

In addition to this, Google Search will now have a “Stream” button that will allow you to stream that same information from the app directly in the search results so you don’t necessarily have to have the app installed on your phone. Using the HotelTonight app as an example, in a stream you would be able to find a hotel, room and book that hotel right from within the results.  If you like what you see then you are just one tap away from downloading the app itself.

The Broader Implications Are Boundless for Google Search & Apps

While the example used by Google is for one app, think about the broader implications if more developers take this functionality on in their apps.  For example, think about an OpenTable where you could search for a restaurant and book it right within OpenTable without ever leaving the Google Search results.  Or Hertz, Avis, even an airline.  The implications, especially for the services industry, are huge.

To be clear, all of this is still very much in beta and is slowly rolling out.

We’re exploring both of these new ways to show you great “app-first” content from a small group of partners, such as HotelTonight, Chimani, Daily Horoscope or New York Subway — stay tuned for more as we expand this!

So I wouldn’t go look for this new feature today.  But it will be there and when it does, the possibilities are boundless.  Developers, please support this in your apps!