The Google app for smartphones is much more than a tool for conducting web searches. For the past few years it has also been home to Google Now cards, which show you relevant news, upcoming appointments, travel, weather, and traffic alerts, and other information before you even think to ask for it.

Late last year Google changed the name of this section to the “feed.” And now the company is announcing that the feed is getting a major update to offer content catered specifically to you.

You know, if you actually find that kind of thing useful. I’ve actually disabled the feature on my phone. But maybe I’ll give the new version a try to see if it does anything for me.

So here’s the deal: the feed still shows things like news, videos, and sports scores. But Google isn’t just choosing content based on the way you interact with Google search, apps, and services anymore.

The company will also surface items that are trending locally and around the globe, helping you stay up to date on things that you might otherwise have missed. The company says it uses machine learning algorithms to predict which things you’ll be most interested in seeing.

You can unfollow any topics you’re not actually interested in if Google gets it totally wrong. Google also plans to add a “follow’ button to some search results, letting you quickly add a topic to your feed.

Other changes include a header for each topic that you can tap to do a broader Googles search on that topic, related content below news stories so you can get fact checks, opposing positions, or just more articles on the topic.

Personally, my problem with Google’s feed has always been that it tends to show me things I’ve already seen. But then, I tend to skim a few newspapers every morning, read headlines from hundreds of tech-related websites in Feedly all throughout the day, and occasionally keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter when I can find the time. So by the time something shows up in my Google feed, there’s a good chance I’ve already seen it.

But then, I make a living by scouring the web for tech news that I can write about. I may not exactly be a typical Google user in that regard.

The new Google feed is part of the Google app for Android and iOS. Some features are expected to find their way into Google’s mobile and desktop websites eventually as well.

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2 replies on “Google’s personalized feed gets smarter thanks to machine learning (mobile first)”

  1. I’ve loved Google Now cards since I’ve started using it as my first source. It’s been disappointing that they’ve slowly crippled it, taking away the home button shortcut (giving it to the context sensor then Assistant, unless you disable that) and the “show more” button unless you open the app directly. But any improvement in content I’ll take.

    Same as I’ve railed against ad algorithms in the past, I’m not sure that this personalization can do much good. Maybe I’m not interested in what’s “trending” locally or globally. And while having smart, dynamic personalization of what to recommend, the feature I most want is basic, static personalization of what *never* to recommend. Basically, I just want a way to turn off certain categories I will never be interested in, namely celebrity gossip and fluff “dog saves child” stories.

  2. I’ve always liked Google Now cards. I am somewhat bummed that I had to give it up on my OP5, but you can put a link to the feed on your “shelf” so it just takes one extra click to get to it.

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