Performing a Google search has become an everyday occurrence for most of us, and now Chrome is working to make it easier to browse your results with a new “Side search” panel.
Update: Google is continuing to expand Chrome’s “Side search” feature by supporting more devices and search engines.
When searching with Google in Chrome today, you either need to hit the “Back” button to return to your results or open each potentially interesting page into a new tab. While certainly a time-honored way to browse the web, it seems Google is looking for ways to make its search engine a more immersive experience in Chrome.
In the latest build of Chrome Canary, there are a trio of new flags in chrome://flags, all having to do with a feature called “Side search.” All three flags expand on Chrome’s recent work to introduce a “side panel” to the right-hand side browser, which offers access to your bookmarks and reading list. Here’s the one you’ll want to enable to try out Side search for yourself.
Enables an easily accessible way to access your most recent Google search results page embedded in a browser side panel — Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS
Once enabled, the next time you perform a Google Search and click on a result, you’ll see a newly added button with the Google “G” logo. Clicking this button opens a panel to the left of your current tab, opened to your Google Search results, albeit in a mobile-like design. Upon clicking any of the results in that side panel, the main browser tab will navigate to your newly selected page.
As an interesting side note, unlike many new Chrome features that are developed gradually out in the open — Chromium is an open source project, after all — it looks like Google developed “Side search” internally before bringing it to Chromium all at once.
Update 3/17: In the last few weeks, Google has continued updating Side search. Despite the flag being labeled as working across all of the major desktop platforms, Side search was initially only enabled for Chrome OS devices. As noted by Leopeva64 on Twitter, Google has opened the flag to Windows, Mac, and Linux devices with recent updates to Chrome Canary. It should arrive for everyone in either Chrome 100 or Chrome 101 later this year.
Additionally, there is a new effort to expand Side search to not be exclusive to Google Search. Starting with Chrome 101, you’ll be able to try Side search with your preferred default search engine. That said not every search engine will necessarily be supported, with Google only activating this side search experience for search engines that opt in to it.
It’s not clear at this time which search engines, if any, will support Side search at launch.
Side search will be rolling out with support for chrome default search engines generally in M101 for all desktop platforms.
In some ways, the feature is a lot like a similar initiative that Google created in Chrome for Android, which puts alternate Google Search results below the address bar. Between these two features, it’s clear that the connection between Chrome and Google Search is deepening, with Google looking to make the browser more productive.
That said, this particular integration seems like it would be best fit for power users, not the average person using Chrome. Hopefully it will stay optional, requiring one to press the Google “G” button to open it.
It also remains to be seen whether Microsoft will adapt Side search to work with Bing for the sake of their Edge browser. Currently, Edge offers a similar feature that can search for a word or phrase in a new panel, which is most useful for finding word definitions.
As the feature is only just now arriving into Chrome Canary, we likely won’t see it reach stable until Chrome 96, which is currently set to launch in mid November.
This article has been updated to note a similar feature currently available in Microsoft Edge.
More on Chrome:
- Chrome 94 rolling out as first release in the new 4-week update cycle [U]
- Google will phase out Chrome support for old Manifest v2 extensions in 2023
- Google app beta loses built-in browser and regains Chrome Custom Tabs [Update: Reverted]
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.