TIME Mobile

Google Fixed the Worst Part About Grocery Shopping

New search feature shows when stores have long lines

No one likes waiting in lines, but there’s little way to avoid them besides trying to ballpark when a business will be extremely busy.

Now, Google is rolling out a new feature in its search results that shows hourly foot traffic at millions of different businesses around the world. The feature works by using anonymized location data from people’s mobile phones, much in the same way Google measures traffic congestion data.

Google has gotten scarily good at predicting when a traffic jam is going to slow drivers down, so it will likely get equally skilled at predicting peak waiting times in stores eventually.

The feature is available across mobile phones and will begin rolling out in the next few days.

TIME Retail

Google Is Making Shopping on a Smartphone Much Easier

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
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.

A new "buy button" is coming to search results

Google is finally rolling out a ‘Buy’ button in its search results. The new feature, first reported back in May, is an effort to get users comfortable thinking of Google as a shopping destination, not just a conduit to other sites.

At a press event on Wednesday, the company announced “Purchase with Google,” which will turn the ads that appear at the top of search results into cards that let users buy products from directly within Google’s interface. After clicking an ad marked with “Buy on Google,” a user will be taken to a special, Google-built page that shows information about the product and a checkout button to pay for the item using the credit card stored in a Google account.

Google isn’t actually selling these products itself, but instead partnering with retailers who will handle order fulfillment. Google makes money on these ads using the same cost-per-click ad auctions that power its traditional search ads.

With its new buttons, Google is aiming to make it easier for users to buy products on mobile phones’ screens. “There is too much friction when we try to make transactions on a phone,” says Jonathan Alferness, Google’s vice president of product management for Google Shopping. He notes that conversations rates to purchase items are still twice as high on desktop as they are on mobile.

Google is rolling out the buy button as a small test with about a dozen retailers in the coming weeks, with plans for a larger U.S. expansion by the end of the year.

At its event, Google also outlined some other recent tweaks to the mobile shopping experience. These include improved voice search that will provide users more detailed information when they ask questions about products, info cards that prominently show product reviews and improved “deep linking” capabilities that will let users open a purchase page within a retailer’s app directly from clicking a link in a Google ad.

TIME Web

Here’s What Happens If You Google ‘Gay Marriage’ Today

You get a very special search result

Google is celebrating the Supreme Court’s Friday ruling legalizing gay marriage across the U.S. Type “gay marriage” into the search engine and you’ll see a string of cartoon couples holding hands across the top of the screen with rainbow colors that represent the gay pride flag.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.53.13 AM 1

It’s no surprise that Google is supporting gay marriage. The company launched a “Legalize Love” campaign in 2012 to combat anti-gay laws and publicly opposed a 2011 California bill that would have banned gay marriage in the state. Other tech giants have also pledged strong support for gay rights. Apple CEO Tim Cook came out publicly as gay last October and has spoken out against religious-freedom laws in several states that could allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.

TIME Mobile

Why Tweets Are About to Dominate Your Google Searches

The Twitter logo displayed on a mobile device.
Bethany Clarke—Getty Images The Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile device.

The two tech companies are cozying up

On Tuesday, Google announced that it is partnering with Twitter to make tweets searchable on mobile devices. The new feature will become available on the English version of Google.com, the Android and iOS versions of Google’s search app, and on mobile browsers.

“It’s a great way to get real-time info when something is happening,” writes Google senior product manager Ardan Arac in a company blog post. “And it’s another way for organizations and people on Twitter to reach a global audience at the most relevant moments.”

Google had previously gained access to Twitter’s so-called firehose, the stream of real-time posts uploaded to the social network, earlier this year—rekindling a failed partnership from several years ago.

A post on Google’s official blog shows what the new feature will look like. It demonstrates a search for “nasa twitter”:

nasa-twitter
Courtesy Google

The deal could signal more partnerships between the two to come. It looks like the two are hitting it off already:

For more on Google and Twitter’s partnership watch:

http://fortune.com/video/2015/02/05/how-the-google-search-deal-could-be-a-boon-for-twitter/

TIME Mobile

You Can Now Order Food Right From Google Search

Google Food
Google Google Food

Google continues to add more functionality to mobile searches

Google is making it even easier to be a lazy eater.

Starting Friday, users will be able to order food directly from a Google search. Users who search for nearby restaurants on their phones will see a “Place an order” option in the information card that appears in the search results. Select that button and you’ll have the option of going directly to the restaurant’s page on one of six food-ordering sites: Seamless, Grubhub, Eat24, Delivery.com, BeyondMenu and MyPizza.com.

Google says it plans to add more options in the future.

Embedding more functionality in mobile searches makes sense for Google, which has seen its search dominance put under pressure by the emergence of single-purpose apps. Instead of using Google to find restaurants, for example, users might use Yelp’s app. The tech giant is doing everything it can to make sure Google search results are a kind of one-stop-shop that lets users execute many different types of actions, including ordering lunch.

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 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.

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