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Google tries to out-Facebook Facebook with its own news feed

The search giant is trying to tread on Facebook’s territory, even as the social network faces criticism for its handling of news.

Now playing: Watch this: Google search gets a Facebook face-lift

Facebook already tailors its feed of news, sports scores and viral videos to show you what you want. Now Google is going to do it too.

In a classic case of Silicon Valley "Anything you can do I can do better," the search giant on Wednesday updated its free Google app for iPhones and Android phones with a feed that uses artificial intelligence to show you things like news stories or movie trailers.

Google is expanding the features in its search app's news feed.


The feed itself isn't new -- Google introduced a basic version of it in December that shows you content you might be interested in, based on your Google searches. But on Wednesday, Google expanded the feed to include "follow" buttons so you can keep tabs on different public figures, like President Donald Trump, artists like Kendrick Lamar, or TV shows like "Game of Thrones."

For news stories, Google will now also show you articles from several different outlets -- along with fact-check stories -- to give you different perspectives. (Facebook does that too.)

Google's app update comes at a time when the web's top sites have been more under fire than ever. Facebook, the world's largest social network with 2 billion people using it each monthhas been particularly accused of fostering fake news and "filter bubbles" -- the idea that Facebook warps your view of the world because your news feed shows you things you tend to already agree with. Even Google's YouTube as well has been criticized for allowing racist and hateful messages to spread unchecked on its service.

That's probably why Google's positioning this initiative as an extension of search, instead of its high-profile Google Plus social network, which ultimately didn't catch on

"Learning about a topic doesn't happen with a single query," Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering for Google search, said during a press event in San Francisco on Tuesday. "Learning about a topic is a process that happens over time."

Because it's a part of search, the way Google's feed works is different from how Facebook works, too. Facebook shows you a mix of things shared by your friends and pages you "Like." Google's feed depends on its almighty search algorithms, as well as info from other Google services, like Google Maps data, Gmail, or YouTube searches.

Google thinks that can produce insights that might otherwise be overlooked. For example, if you went to a classical music concert on a whim last year, Google's feed might show you a story on on an up-and-coming cellist that might pique your interest again. Or, if you're planning a trip to Japan, Google's feed could show you an article from 10 months ago about good spots to take photo in Tokyo.

"The key issue here is this feed is really about your interests," Gomes said. "It's not really about what your friends are interested in, which is what other feeds might be."

You might wonder if because your Google search history is in the driver seat, some sensitive stuff might pop up. Google said the feed won't pick up certain topics, like porn or hate speech, and it won't infer anything about your religion or sexual orientation.

For now, Google's feed is rolling out only in the United States, but internationally in the next few weeks. 

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