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Future of Search

When it started, Google offered Search in English, and indexed some 25 million web pages. Today, Google indexes hundreds of billions of pages and offers Search in 150 languages in over 190 countries.

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While the volume of information, the languages, the features, the countries and the usefulness of search have increased substantially since, the core principles of Search have remained unchanged in the past 20 years. Google’s focus is on the user, aiming to give them the most relevant, highest quality information as quickly as possible, using an algorithmic approach, and rigorously testing every change it makes. Last year alone, Google ran more than 200,000 experiments that resulted in 2,400+ changes to search.

The next chapter of Search will be driven by three fundamental shifts in how Google thinks about Search:

  • The shift from answers to journeys: To help users resume tasks where they left off and learn new interests and hobbies, Google is introducing bringing new features to Search. These include Activity cards that help users retrace their search steps, Collections to help keep track of search activity, Dynamic organisation of search results to help users see what the next, most relevant information around a query is, and a new Topic Layer in Knowledge Graph

  • The shift from queries to providing a queryless way to get to information: We can surface relevant information related to your interests, even when you don’t have a specific query in mind, using the Google Feed which was launched last year. Google has renamed it to Discover and given it a new look and feel including new topic headers to explain why you’re seeing it. Next to each topic name is a Discover icon – tap “Follow” to start seeing more about that topic.

Discover also has new features, including more videos, fresh content and evergreen content and you can control what you see in the feed by indicating if you want more or less of it (using the Control icon).

  • The shift from text to a more visual way of finding information: Google is bringing more visual content to Search and completely redesigning Google Images to help users find information more easily. Earlier this year Google announced AMP Stories, which publishers are experimenting with and providing people a more visual way to get information. These stories will now be shown on on Google Images and Discover. Google will also be featuring videos in Search to help people visually preview topics they’re interested in, using computer vision to understand the content of a video and help users quickly find the most useful information.

Additionally, Google has overhauled the Google images algorithm to rank results that have both great images and great content on a page, prioritising sites where the image is central to the page and higher up on the page and showing more context around images, including captions that show the title of the webpage where each image is published. This has already been introduced on mobile, and now is being rolled out to the desktop, where a larger screen is important for complex tasks.

Lastly, Google Lens is being introduced to Google Images to help users explore and learn about content they find in their searches. Lens’ AI technology analyses images and detects objects of interest within them. If you select one of these objects, Lens will show you relevant images, many of which link to product pages so you can continue your search or buy the item you’re interested in.

All of the above features and changes are a result of Google’s advancements in AI, which allow it to understand language in a way it couldn’t before. Neural networks can now help Google take a leap forward from understanding words to understanding concepts. Neural embeddings allow Google to transform words to fuzzier representations of the underlying concepts and then match the concepts in the query with the concepts in the document – a technique called ‘neural matching’. This can enable us to address queries like: “why does my TV look strange?” to surface the most relevant results for that question, even if the exact words aren’t contained in the page.

Providing greater access to information is fundamental to what Google does, and there are always more ways it can help people access the information they need. That’s what pushes  the company forward to continue to make Search better for its users. And that’s why its work here is never done.

Brief history of Search:

Google was founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page – it started as a research project the two were conducting as PhD students at Stanford University in California in 1995. Working from their dorm rooms, they built a search engine to determine the importance of individual pages on the Web. They named it Backrub initially, but soon renamed it Google – a play on the word googol – the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.

The project attracted attention and by 1998, a cheque for $100 000 from Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, allowed Page & Brin to officially found Google Inc.

With the investment they upgraded to the now famous garage in Menlo Park, California owned by Susan Wojcicki – employee #16 and now CEO of YouTube.

Google today has more than 60 000 employees across 50 countries and makes hundreds of products used by billions of people across the world, from YouTube to Android, and, of course, Google Search. Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. We can therefore estimate more than 20 trillion search queries in the past 20 years.

How South Africans use search:

South Africans love sport – we see trending sport topics generate search queries in the hundreds of thousands on a daily basis. That is followed by topical current affairs issues and popular culture queries. The “near me” query is used quite a lot, whether people are looking for medical facilities such as pharmacies, food outlets and even jobs.

This week Heritage Day, the soapie Uzalo, Edna Molewa, Kaizer Chiefs vs Amazulu and even Lil Wayne were amongst the top searches.

South Africans also use Google for very functional purposes: Google has helped ordinary South Africans with practical life-hacks in the areas of health, education, employment and life in general.

Bridget used Google to search HTML coding solutions for years. “Google took me from tables to databases, from receptionist to director of my own company. My ever-present coach and mentor. Now, as I start building a new company, Google is there with new ideas and solutions to new problems.“  

Nqobile says, “I didn’t know I was in labour. Everything my midwife told me I would feel or experience didn’t happen that way or feel that way. I Googled the ‘symptoms’ while lying on the couch and Google told me to go to the hospital! If it wasn’t for my dear friend Google, it would have been a messy home birth.”  

Nomaswazi didn’t have money to buy textbooks when she was studying, as she was paying for her fees, Google helped her with preparing for her exams ‒  and she passed them all.

Google search taught Denzil how to change the headlights on his girlfriend’s car, which included removing the bumper. He’s since learnt how to service his own car.

 

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Now download a bank account

Absa has introduced an end-to-end account opening for new customers, through the Absa Banking App, which can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. This follows the launch of the world first ChatBanking on WhatsApp service.

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This “download your account” feature enables new customers to Absa, to open a Cheque account, order their card and start transacting on the Absa Banking App, all within minutes, from anywhere and at any time, by downloading it from the App stores.

“Overall, this new capability is not only expected to enhance the customer’s digital experience, but we expect to leverage this in our branches, bringing digital experiences to the branch environment and making it easier for our customers to join and bank with us regardless of where they may be,” says Aupa Monyatsi, Managing Executive for Virtual Channels at Absa Retail & Business Banking.

“With this innovation comes the need to ensure that the security of our customers is at the heart of our digital experience, this is why the digital onboarding experience for this feature includes a high-quality facial matching check with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the customer’s identity, ensuring that we have the most up to date information of our clients. Security is supremely important for us.”

The new version of the Absa Banking App is now available in the Apple and Android App stores, and anyone with a South African ID can become an Absa customer, by following these simple steps:

  1. Download the Absa App
  2. Choose the account you would like to open
  3. Tell us who you are
  4. To keep you safe, we will verify your cell phone number
  5. Take a selfie, and we will do facial matching with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm you are who you say you are
  6. Tell us where you live
  7. Let us know what you do for a living and your income
  8. Click Apply.

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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