A New Pocket Feature Shows Trending Stories on Google’s Homepage

September 2, 2016, 2:41 PM UTC
Posed scene on the topic google, glasses in front of the google company logo on April 21, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.
Photograph by Thomas Trutschel — Photothek via Getty Images

Google and its rival Facebook have transformed into giant media companies in recent years, working with news and video companies as part strategy to encourage consumers to stay on their platforms.

Now, a new feature from read-it-later service Pocket causes Google’s home page to show three trending news stories on its home page—right under its iconic search bar—as well as three “trending topics.” As noted below, it’s unclear if Google is involved in the feature, or if it is solely a Pocket initiative.

The to display trending news topics mirrors what Facebook has been doing in recent months, and will likely provide more grist for the debate over how the companies curate news, and their growing power over the media.

The change to Google’s homepage began to appear this week, though it does not appear to have been rolled out to many users. I discovered it when I opened a new tab in my Chrome browser, but colleagues at Fortune have yet to see something similar.

Here’s a screenshot that shows the Google home page displaying three trending stories, culled from the Financial Times, tech site The Verge, and Ebony magazine:

Google Trending Stories

As you can see, the bottom of the page also presents Google’s choice of trending topics. In this case, they’re about a recent hacking incident at Dropbox as well as items about Alzheimers and Donald Trump.

If you click on the “view more stories” link, the page takes you a series of other articles that are currently popular on Pocket, a service that lets you store articles on the web and read them later. Note that a small image of Pocket’s logo also appears the news story on the right.

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It occurred to me that I downloaded Pocket months ago, and that it comes with a Chrome browser extension to save articles. Since then, I had pretty much forgotten about it (like many people I ended up storing articles but not returning to read them) until the change to Google’s homepage.

Neither Google nor Pocket immediately replied to my request for comment about the news feature, but Verge editor Dan Seifert says this is solely Pocket’s doing (I had earlier speculated this was driven by Google):

The new Pocket-driven “trending stories” comes the same week after its main rival, Instapaper, was acquired by another giant web platform, Pinterest, earlier this week.

This story was updated at 11:30am ET to reflect that the trending stories feature appears to be a Pocket initiative; an earlier version said Google was behind the change.

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