Google is testing a powerful upgrade that will make it much easier for users to find the content they’re looking for in their libraries. As spotted by 9to5Google, some users visiting photos.google.com on the Web, have started seeing a pop-up message prompting them to “Try a more powerful search.”
Those receiving the message are now able to locate images using more detailed search phrases, such as “colorful sunset” or “peaceful garden.” rather than more basic keywords such as “dog” or “waterfall”. Being able to enter more specific search requests should make it easier to find the image you’re looking for and will be particularly useful to those who, like me, have very large photo libraries.
However, I find this development astonishing, not because of how good the new search tool is, but because I hadn’t realized just how terrible it was before. I find it almost unbelievable that Google, a company synonymous with “search” and at the forefront of AI chat bot development, can’t cope with a simple search query like “colorful sunset” in Google Photos.
Sadly, this is indeed the case — the report goes on to show that while the Android app returns no search results for this query, searching the same library from the “more powerful search” prompt on the web returns several appropriate matches ranked by relevance in a new “Most relevant to your search” section.
The report also notes that users can now search for tagged people in specific locations, for example, “Charlie at the Golden Gate Bridge.” In my experience however, queries like this work well even without the new update, although the results are presented in date order rather than ranked by relevance.
A Google spokesperson confirmed to the publication that the new search style is an experiment that allows people to “search for more complex queries to help them find the photos and videos they’re looking for more easily.” Let’s hope it’s a successful one, as the current search box is in dire need of an overhaul.
This is also a reminder that the experience of using Google Photos can vary quite considerably between users, with new ideas frequently tested on select groups before a wider roll-out.
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