One of the things that makes Google Search such a powerful tool is that it pulls information from other websites and presents it in search results, and even links back to the original website. This is a bit more difficult on mobile devices, because many times, the service providing the information is doing so through an app, not a website, which means users will have to download the service’s app in order to have access to the added functionality. Fortunately, Google has found a rather ingenious solution, one that involves streaming third-party apps from search results.
Google’s search results have included information from inside of apps for a couple years now, but Google has only ever been able to show those results if you have the app installed or if the app has a website, too. But now Google has another way: stream the entire app to your phone. Google announced today that it’s beginning to test a feature that will stream apps to Android phones when someone finds a result from them through Search. If you’re searching for hotel bookings, for instance, a search result from HotelTonight might appear. Because HotelTonight doesn’t let you book through its website, Google will stream the HotelTonight app, allowing you to tap through it to explore listings and make a booking. Streaming HotelTonight went smoothly in a brief test, although it responded a bit slower than a native app. Streaming only works with nine apps for now, according to TechCrunch: Hotel Tonight, Weather, Chimani, Gormey, My Horoscope, Visual Anatomy Free, Useful Knots, Daily Horoscope, and New York Subway. It also only works on phones in the US that are connected to Wi-Fi and running Android Lollipop or higher. Google says it’s planning to expand the program; it’s an important initiative — Google Search is a critical tool for the web, but apps, which increasingly hold information that isn’t available elsewhere, haven’t been as visible to Google. This feature moves toward solving that and keeping Google Search as important as ever.