From www.theverge.com

There are few bigger jobs at Google than being the person who runs Search. As of today, there’s a new person in that seat: Liz Reid, who has been at Google for more than 20 years and has most recently been leading the company’s efforts with AI search, known as Search Generative Experience (SGE).

Reid’s promotion is part of a bigger change within Google’s Search team. Pandu Nayak, a longtime executive overseeing ranking and quality, is now going to be chief scientist of Search. He’ll be replaced by Cheenu Venkatachary, who has also been working on AI products in Search. Meanwhile, Cathy Edwards, who led a lot of the work on Google News and Google Discover, is taking a job on Google’s long-term bets team.

In some ways this is just a lot of normal corporate machinations: people getting new titles and new jobs and moving around after years in a specific role. And Prabhakar Raghavan, who has long overseen Search, ads, Assistant, and much more, is still in charge.

But let’s read some tea leaves anyway, shall we? The simplest way to look at these moves is as more evidence that Google believes AI is the future of search. For 25 years, we’ve all learned to type keywords into a search box and expect a bunch of ranked links in return. In an AI-powered, multisearch-based world, you might instead upload a photo, and the Gemini model could tell you what’s in it and how to buy it. You might speak a question into your headphones and get a fully formed answer out the speakers.

This is not surprising: CEO Sundar Pichai and others have been saying for years that language models and other AI systems can both improve the quality of search results and completely change the way we think about gathering information online. Now, as Google reckons both with a rapidly moving AI landscape and a web increasingly filled with AI-generated, SEO-ified junk, making Google Search good is both harder and more important than ever.

Reid, in particular, has spent the last couple of years working on both AI search and multisearch, which together point to a totally new way of thinking about Google. In a LinkedIn post announcing her new role, Reid noted all these new search tools, including the new Circle to Search feature, Google Lens, and other new ways of thinking about search. “With SGE,” she wrote, “we are able to serve a wider range of information needs and answer new types of questions, including more complex questions, like comparisons or longer queries.” And there’s more coming soon, she said.

AI search and multisearch point to a totally new way of thinking about Google

Ahead of the SGE launch last year, Reid told me she thinks a lot about lowering the bar to asking Google your real questions. Let’s say you search, “What is the best lawnmower,” she said. “If you think about where you go further, you’d probably want to take a picture of your lawnmower and say, ‘best version of this,’ but maybe you can take a picture of your lawn and get to the point where it’s like, ‘Okay, your lawn is hilly, and it’s really big, and so you want the super-automated one that does it for you.’” Google Search has never been good at that kind of multimodal, context-rich input and output — but Google, like so many other companies, believes AI can be.

Google Search will almost certainly look more like SGE over time. It will increasingly trade links for answers — and Reid has acknowledged that figuring out how to cite those answers, and continue to be a good partner to the open web, is part of her ongoing challenge. Pichai and others have been saying AI is the future for some time but have preached patience as the company tries to wrangle and improve all this nascent technology. But with Reid and Venkatachary now at the helm of the product, it looks like the AI era in Google might be coming faster than we realized.

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The post Google has a new head of Search — and she’s all in on AI first appeared on www.theverge.com

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