Last week, Google introduced a rather thrilling update to its mobile image search tools. Google Images will now streamline that terribly cumbersome process of seeing an image of a dish in your search results and then having to go to a separate webpage on your phone to get the recipe. Quite a set of inconveniences!
It's much easier now. You can type in a recipe of your choice on a mobile browser, and there’s a badge that appears at the bottom left of each image, alerting you to the fact that the image is attached to a recipe. If you tap that image, the recipe appears right beneath it.
Consider this a boringly minor product development if you will. But I, along with a few others, interpret the move as something of Google jockeying for dominance in a space that’s monopolized by Pinterest. Over the past few months, Pinterest, that storehouse of recipes, has expanded its own discovery capabilities, developing such tools as a "Shazam for food" and getting savvier about search.
Google’s modification is a mobile-only feature, and it’s not perfect. You’ll come across the occasional recipe image without a corresponding list of ingredients and directions. The onus to rectify that, though, falls on publishers rather than Google, which is urging publications to retool the code on their sites so Google’s algorithm can pick up on that metadata.
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I'm curious to see how Google grows this tiny product adjustment into a more robust discovery tool, and whether it'll have any sizable impact on the way we forage for recipes online. Either way, what they've developed is incredibly simple. Tap an image, get a recipe. There you go. They've saved you a click. Er, tap.
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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.
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