Google is developing an API for its “predictive search” service Google Now. That would allow any app developer or publisher to integrate with the service.
The low-key announcement came out of a discussion between Aparna Chennapragada, Google Now Director of Product Management, and Danny Sullivan this weekend at SXSW. In January Google Now first announced the integration of a number third party cards into the service.
The move to embrace third party developer content is logical and potentially adds much more value to Google Now.
We don’t have usage figures for Google Now but it’s closely integrated into Google’s widely used search app on iOS and even more prominent on Android devices. While there might be some ambivalence about a Google Now API among some developers and publishers, most would probably participate for the potential exposure.
But with more than a million apps, how would competing data and services be managed? This is something I immediately wondered when Google announced the third party card integration in January. According to The Next Web that question came up during the SXSW discussion:
When asked by an attendee how Google Now would handle competing data from rival apps, Chennapragada said individual user app usage patterns would help guide which data should be shown.
Google Now is undoubtedly the company’s most compelling “search” product and part of its unnamed virtual assistant functionality. What’s more, given the importance of mobile search, Google Now is increasingly strategic. Its outlook as a revenue driver for the company is less certain.
In a roundabout way, integrating third party data and content into Now seeks to put Google back at the center of the mobile user experience. Google Now cards (effectively notifications) represent a kind of successor experience to the traditional SERP, taking advantage of all the additional signals that mobile provides.
Obviously mobile search in its current form will continue on. But as it gets broader and more useful, Google Now becomes a more and more compelling product. I use it daily and find I want more content and functionality from it.
Eventually we’re likely to see contextually and geographically relevant display ads in Google Now. But for now it remains ad free.