By Levi Sumagaysay
The Mercury News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Google celebrates 20 years, the company is highlighting new initiatives that go beyond helping people find information for knowledge’s sake. It also wants to help them with their well-being, such as finding safety during times of crisis.
Google, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week, on Monday looked to the future as it unveiled three big shifts in search that appear to take aim at some of its biggest competitors.
With Journeys, search users will have a chance to collect their searches and results over time. The company is also anticipating query-less searches, with VP of Search Ben Gomes saying, “We want to solve queries we haven’t even seen.” And it’s doubling down on visual.
Gomes, one of Google’s first principal engineers and now its head of search, kicked off Monday’s press event in San Francisco by putting into perspective how far Google and the web have come.
“When Google was founded, the web was 25 million pages then,” said Gomes, who has been with the company for 19 of its 20 years. “Now, there are hundreds of billions of pages.”
The feel-good event came as the company is facing challenges galore, from questions about its reported revival of search efforts in China to controversy over leaked emails that showed Google employees discussing ways they might make changes in search to respond to President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Even though the company says no changes were made after those discussions, the news helped fuel even more conservative complaints that Google, like other tech giants, is too politically liberal.
“The kind of work we do, there’s a lot of scrutiny,” Gomes said in an interview after the keynote address. “We welcome that.” He said Google has an open culture, and follows processes and a system of testing its products and algorithms.