TIME Web

Google Is Making a Big Change to Its Search Results

Mobile-friendly websites will now get a big boost

Google has let the world in on a recent change to its carefully protected search algorithm. Starting Tuesday, the company is boosting the ranking for mobile-friendly websites and demoting those pages that don’t load well on smartphones.

The search giant first announced the change back in February, and the move has earned the moniker “Mobilegeddon” as anxiety over the algorithm tweak has grown in recent weeks. The end result should benefit users, who will less often be sent to hard-to-navigate websites designed for desktop computers.

The shift will also help Google, which is fiercely competing with apps dedicated to specific services (think Amazon for shopping, Yelp for restaurant reviews) that are siphoning away inquiries users could be typing into a Google search bar.

TIME Web

See Everything You’ve Ever Googled in One Terrifying Place

Here's how to find your search history—and delete it

Some of your deepest, darkest secrets have probably passed through the Google search bar. Now, you can download every last query you’ve ever typed into the search engine and see them all together in their raw glory (or shame).

The feature was first rolled out as an experiment last year but is now available to all users, according to the unofficial Google blog Google Operating System. To access the data, visit your Web History page, click the gear icon in the top-right corner and click “Download.” A warning box will appear advising users to enable two-step verification and to avoid downloading their search histories to public computers.

Click “Create Archive” and a zip file featuring all the search queries will be placed in a folder called “Takeout” in your Google Drive account. The file can then be downloaded to your computer. Only searches you made while logged into your Google account are included in the file.

If you’re horrified at the idea of every fleeting thought you’ve typed into Google being gathered in a single place, you can also delete your search history. On the Web history page where you download the archive, simply click the gear icon and select “Remove items” instead. In the drop-down menu, you’ll see an option to remove items since “the beginning of time.”

Read next: You Can Now Find Your Lost Phone by Googling It

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TIME Web

Google Embraces ‘Mobile-Friendly’ Sites in Search Shake-Up

Websites must load quickly on mobile devices to appear on top with the revised Google formula for smartphones and tablets

(SAN FRANCISCO) — Google is about to change the way its influential search engine recommends websites on smartphones and tablets in a shift that’s expected to sway where millions of people shop, eat and find information.

The revised formula, scheduled to be released Tuesday, will favor websites that Google defines as “mobile-friendly.” Websites that don’t fit the description will be demoted in Google’s search results on smartphones and tablets while those meeting the criteria will be more likely to appear at the top of the rankings — a prized position that can translate into more visitors and money.

Although Google’s new formula won’t affect searches on desktop and laptop computers, it will have a huge influence on how and where people spend their money, given that more people are relying on their smartphones to compare products in stores and look for restaurants. That’s why Google’s new rating system is being billed by some search experts as “Mobile-geddon.”

“Some sites are going to be in for a big surprise when they find a drastic change in the amount of people visiting them from mobile devices,” said Itai Sadan, CEO of website-building service Duda.

It’s probably the most significant change that Google Inc. has ever made to its mobile search rankings, according to Matt McGee, editor-in-chief for Search Engine Land, a trade publication that follows every tweak that the company makes to its closely guarded algorithms.

Here are a few things to know about what’s happening and why Google is doing it.

MAKING MOBILE FRIENDS

To stay in Google’s good graces, websites must be designed so they load quickly on mobile devices. Content must also be easily accessible by scrolling up and down — without having to also swipe to the left or right. It also helps if all buttons for making purchases or taking other actions on the website can be easily seen and touched on smaller screens.

If a website has been designed only with PC users in mind, the graphics take longer to load on mobile devices and the columns of text don’t all fit on the smaller screens, to the aggravation of someone trying to read it.

Google has been urging websites to cater to mobile device for years, mainly because that is where people are increasingly searching for information.

The number of mobile searches in the U.S. is rising by about 5 percent while inquiries on PCs are dipping slightly, according to research firm comScore Inc. In the final three months of last year, 29 percent of all U.S. search requests — about 18.5 billion — were made on mobile devices, comScore estimated. Google processes the bulk of searches — two-thirds in the U.S. and even more in many other countries.

BRACING FOR CHANGE

To minimize complaints, the company disclosed its plans nearly two months ago. It also created a step-by-step guide and a tool to test compliance with the new standards.

Google has faced uproar over past changes to its search formula. Two of the bigger revisions, done in 2011 and 2012, focused on an attempt to weed out misleading websites and other digital rubbish. Although that goal sounds reasonable, many websites still complained that Google’s changes unfairly demoted them in the rankings, making their content more difficult to find.

STILL CAUGHT OFF GUARD

While most major merchants and big companies already have websites likely to meet Google’s mobile standard, the new formula threatens to hurt millions of small businesses that haven’t had the money or incentive to adapt their sites for smartphones.

“A lot of small sites haven’t really had a reason to be mobile friendly until now, and it’s not going to be easy for them to make the changes,” McGee said.

BURYING HELPFUL CONTENT

Google’s search formula weighs a variety of factors to determine the rankings of its results. One of the most important considerations has always been whether a site contains the most pertinent information sought by a search request.

But new pecking order in Google’s mobile search may relegate some sites to the back pages of the search results, even if their content is more relevant to a search request than other sites that happen to be easier to access on smartphones.

That will be an unfortunate consequence, but also justifiable because a person might not even bother to look at sites that take a long time to open or difficult to read on mobile devices, Gartner analyst Whit Andrews said.

“Availability is part of relevancy,” Andrews said. “A lot of people aren’t going to think something is relevant if they can’t get it to appear on their iPhone.”

TIME Smartphones

You Can Now Find Your Lost Phone by Googling It

Inside A Samsung Electronics Co. Digital Store Ahead Of Fourth-Quarter Results
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A visitor tries out a Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Note 4 smartphone at the company's d'light flagship store in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

It only works for Android users

Next time you lose your phone, a simple Google search may be able to find it.

Google announced Wednesday a new phone-finding feature for Android users tied to its search engine. Simply type “find my phone” into the Google search bar, and the results will show a map with the last known location of your phone. You can also choose to ring the phone from this page to make it easier to find — say, if it’s lost under the couch.

The feature works on the desktop and with the Google search app. Just make sure you’re signed into the same Google account on your phone and on your desktop to enable the option.

Read next: Google Has a New Handwriting Keyboard and It Actually Works

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TIME legal

What to Know About Google’s Fight With Europe

Google and European Union logos are seen in Sarajevo, in this April 15, 2015 photo illustration.
Dado Ruvic—Reuters Google and European Union logos are seen in Sarajevo, in this April 15, 2015 photo illustration.

The search giant faces charges of anticompetitive behavior in Europe

A new antitrust complaint filed against Google by the European Union Wednesday could force the company to pay huge fines and change the way its search engine operates in Europe.

In the complaint, EU regulators say Google has abused its dominance in online search to stifle competition. If the charges stick, Google could face a cascade of antitrust allegations over a variety of its other services as well.

Here’s a quick explainer of why European officials are targeting Google and how the search giant has responded so far.

What is the European Union saying Google did wrong?

The formal accusation is tied to the way Google displays its shopping comparison product, Google Shopping, in search results. Items from Google Shopping are displayed at the top of the search results page when users search for many basic products, like “kites” or “dog food.” According to the EU, automatically placing Google’s own service in this prized digital real estate could “artificially divert traffic from rival comparison shopping services and hinder their ability to compete, to the detriment of consumers, as well as stifling innovation.”

Why does it matter whether Google promotes its rivals equally?

Google controls more than 90% of the search engine market share in most European countries, compared to about 65% market share in the U.S. According to Google’s rivals, such as Yelp and Microsoft, that control over search gives Google incredible influence over the viability of other companies that rely on search results to drive web traffic and generate business.

What is Google’s counterargument?

In a blog post Wednesday, Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice president for Search, points out that traffic to Google Shopping is still dwarfed by sites like Amazon and eBay in European countries and does not significantly outpace other competitors. He also cited the successful IPO of German shopping site Zalando as proof that competition was not being stifled by Google Search.

“Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation, new entrants or investment in sectors where competition is stagnating — or dominated by one player,” he wrote. “Yet that is exactly what’s happening in our world.”

How long has the European investigation been going on?

Officials began a general investigation into Google’s search practices in November of 2010. After years of back and forth, Google reached a tentative settlement with the European Commission in February 2014 in which the company agreed to place competitors’ search results at the top of the results page along with results from Google’s services. However, the settlement was ultimately rejected later in the year. Now the EU has a new antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, who has taken a harder line against Google.

What punishments could Google face?

The European Union can collect fines as large as 10% of annual sales for violation of antitrust law. In Google’s case, that would amount to more than $6 billion, though it isn’t clear if a final fee would go that high. The company could also be forced to change the way its search engine works — in its charges, the European Commission says Google should treat its own comparison shopping service the same as that of its rivals by showing whatever results are most relevant based on a user’s search query.

Google will have ten weeks to respond to the EU’s allegations in hopes of avoiding a big fine.

Is this only about Google Shopping?

No. The European Commission also announced that it’s opening an antitrust investigation into Android, Google’s mobile operating system. The Commission will consider whether Google pressured manufacturers who use Android on their devices to pre-install Google’s own apps. It will also seek to learn if Google prevented manufacturers from developing modified versions of Android in a manner that runs afoul of antitrust law.

For its part, Google argues Android has helped spur mobile innovation and that its practices are not out of line with the way Apple and Microsoft control their mobile ecosystems.

The Commission is also continuing to investigate how Google prioritizes its own specialized results in other specific fields, such as flights, and the kinds of restrictions the company places on advertisers.

Could Google face similar scrutiny in the U.S.?

It’s doubtful. The Federal Trade Commission launched an antitrust investigation into Google in 2011 but ultimately filed no legal charges against the search giant. A recently disclosed internal report, however, revealed the FTC was closer than initially believed to filing charges against Google.

Has this ever happened before?

American tech giant Microsoft long sparred with European regulators over antitrust concerns regarding the Windows operating system and Internet browsers. Microsoft initially got away without a fine by agreeing to offer new Windows users in Europe a wider choice of browsers. However, Microsoft was fined $732 million in 2013 when it was found not to be complying with that deal (Microsoft blamed technical errors). Some commentators argue Microsoft’s dealings with European regulators changed the company’s culture in profound ways.

Read next: How Google Perfected the Silicon Valley Acquisition

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TIME viral

Google Doodle Celebrates the Pony Express With a Game

There once was a time before Gmail

Before there was Gmail to deliver our messages, there was pen and paper. And before that, at least in the United States in the 1800s, there were ponies.

In honor of the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express on Tuesday, Google created an animated Doodle game that commemorates the mail delivery service. If Googlers click on the Wild West-themed Doodle, they can help a pony deliver mail across America. (Just watch out for cacti).

In the video above, animator Nate Swinehart explains the history of the Pony Express and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the Doodle process.

TIME Companies

Do This 1 Thing For a Better Google Ranking

Google Mobile Search
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a Nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Mobile-friendly sites will do better in search results next month

Google is once again tweaking its search algorithm with a new change that should have some benefits for users.

The company announced in a Thursday blog post that it will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results starting April 21. Sites that work well on a smartphone will get a “significant” boost over other sites, the company says.

The change should ensure that people conducting Google searches on their phone typically arrive on easily-readable sites rather than messy desktop-based layouts that are hard to navigate on a small screen. Google offers a form where developers can input a URL to see whether it is mobile-friendly or not.

In addition to the algorithm change, Google said starting Thursday it will begin surfacing content hidden within apps more prominently in search results. If a developer has enabled App Indexing, Google’s search bots can crawl the contents of an app just like a Web page. Information from the app can show up along with regular search results on Google.

It makes sense that Google would want to incentivize App Indexing. The search giant doesn’t have the stranglehold on information queries on phones as it does on the desktop because people often boot up more narrowly-focused apps (Amazon for shopping, Yelp for food) instead of using Google to trawl the entire World Wide Web. More indexing means more valuable information that Google can present to users and serve ads against.

TIME Aviation

Search for AirAsia Wreckage Ends

INDONESIA-SINGAPORE-MALAYSIA-AVIATION-AIRASIA
Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images An Indonesian rescue helicopter flies over the Crest Onyx ship as divers (R in rubber boats) conduct operations to lift the tail of AirAsia QZ8501 in the Java Sea on January 9, 2015.

Searchers have found 70 of the 162 bodies

Indonesia’s military suspended a search effort for a downed AirAsia flight in the Java Sea on Tuesday, drawing to a close a 30-day effort to retrieve bodies from the wreckage.

“We apologize to the families of the victims,” Rear Adm. Widodo said, according to Reuters. “We tried our best to look for the missing victims.”

Divers with the Indonesian military have struggled against strong currents and murky water conditions to retrieve bodies from the wreckage site, submerged some 100 feet below sea level. Officials said they had retrieved 70 bodies to date from the wreckage site, and no bodies were known to remain in the fuselage, the New York Times reports.

The plane had 162 people on board when it crashed last month.

TIME Aviation

Search Crews Locate Missing AirAsia Flight’s Fuselage

AirAsia aircraft tail storage is recovered
Denny Pohan—Demotix/Corbis AirAsia aircraft tail is recovered from the Java Sea on Jan. 12, 2015, in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia

Official hopes it brings "some form of closure" to families

Search crews located the fuselage of missing Air Asia Flight 8501 on Wednesday, officials said, marking a breakthrough in a the search for the plane’s scattered wreckage and the missing passengers’ remains.

“The [rescue team] has located the fuselage of the AirAsia plane in the Java Sea,” Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen wrote on Facebook, saying the fuselage had been found by a remotely operated vehicle in the Java Sea, 2 km away from the tail. The flight en route from Indonesia to Singapore vanished over the Java Sea on Dec. 28 with 162 people on board.

The Facebook post included images of the submerged wreckage, which showed a section of the wing and AirAsia’s slogan “Now Everyone Can Fly” legibly printed on the side of the plane.

“I hope that with the fuselage located, some form of closure can come to the families of the victims to ease their grief,” Ng wrote.

TIME Holidays

It’s New Year’s Day and Everyone Is Googling ‘Hangover Cure’

hangover
Getty Images

Google searches reveal that Jan. 1 is the most hungover day of the year, by a lot

You may not fully remember what you did for New Year’s Eve 2014, but Google has a pretty good idea.

The number of people Googling the phrase “hangover cure” surges January 1–a point illustrated clearly in this chart posted by Wonkblog’s Christopher Ingraham. It’s the biggest day of the year (by far) for searches on ways to heal a booze-addled brain after one too many champagne toasts to ring in the new year.

Next down the list for the year’s most hungover days are the Saturday after Halloween, followed by May 17 (for unknown reasons; personally, I suspect it’s because it’s the day after a particularly entertaining friend’s birthday), and then July 5.

Read more at Wonkblog

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