Google just made a minor change to its search functionality: It can now search within apps. Starting today, Google’s search engine will index information exclusively contained inside Android apps and will even offer users a chance to stream virtual versions of the apps if they don’t already have them installed.
“When Google got started, Search meant sitting at your desktop and finding the best information on websites,” Google wrote in a blog post announcing the update. “Today, you’re more likely to be searching on your mobile device, and the best answers may be buried in an app… perhaps one that you don’t even have installed yet.”
Google has been indexing the content of apps for at least two years, but till now it required that apps made the same content available on the web. The company has steadily upgraded the search functionality on its mobile app, but apps present a considerable challenge for both Google and smaller rivals like Bing and DuckDuckGo: Traditional search engines only index the web, and individual apps function more like walled gardens. For both Google and Apple, indexing the content of individual apps remains the next frontier.
Initial partners for Google’s new streaming and indexing option include apps like Weather, New York Subway, My Horoscope, and HotelTonight.