Google is starting to let users into its AI search experiment
A few Google users are about to start seeing a very different set of search results. The company announced this morning that it is opening up access to Search Labs, its new home for testing search features. Labs is still guarded by a waitlist, and it’s not clear how quickly Google intends to let people in, but two weeks after announcing Labs at Google I/O, it’s at least starting to ship.
The most interesting feature in Labs is the Search Generative Experience, which puts an AI-generated summary at the top of search results across Google. You ask for information about The Defenestration of Prague, and rather than direct you to Wikipedia or Google’s infamous “10 blue links,” Google will generate a few paragraphs of information and offer you a few links for further reading.
SGE may be the biggest change in the history of Google Search, and it’s going to be fascinating to see what early users encounter. It could have huge ramifications for how people search and even what they search for. It’s going to totally upend the SEO industry, as everyone fights to be in the AI summary rather than in the links now pushed down below. And if users mostly get what they need from the summaries and thus don’t click off the page as often, it could change the whole business model of the web. Google has often talked about being both bold and responsible in its rollout of AI, but now that these features will be in users’ hands, all bets are off.
In addition to SGE, Labs also includes two other features: Add to Sheets, which puts a button next to every link in your search results that will add that link to the Google Sheet of your choosing; and Code Tips, a large language model-based system specifically for helping you write and fix code. A spreadsheet button doesn’t exactly boggle the mind, but the fact that it’s in Labs is actually telling — Google Search is so big and so important that the company won’t even add a tiny hidden icon without testing it out.
Google’s doing a lot of testing right now, by the way. You can sign up to get into the Workspace Labs to test AI features in Gmail and Docs, mess around in the new Tailwind AI-powered notebook, and even play with Google’s text-to-music generator. When it comes to search, if you’re not already on the waitlist, you can sign up at the Search Labs page. If you’re already signed up, you’ll get an email when you’re able to get into Labs and see how AI will change the way you search.