Last Updated: December 27th, 2014

Update: The feature, dubbed touch to search, is live as of Chrome 38.

Google sometimes gives us a hint of what it's working on if you're willing to dig for it. Buried in the new Chrome Beta for Android update is something called contextual search. It's not completely functional right now, but you can take a peek at some aspects of it.

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To enable contextual search in Chrome Beta, go to chrome://flags/#contextual-search in the address bar. Tap enable to activate this feature, then restart the browser using the button that pops up. Once this is done, you'll be able to tap any word on a page to get an interesting little search UI at the bottom of the page. It shows the word you selected along with the words around it. Trying to launch a search by pressing the Google logo brings you to an inaccessible internal Google page on the layers.sandbox.google domain.






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Even though we can't see the results right now, it's likely this feature is going to perform some sort of targeted search that looks for the chosen word in a context similar to the one you selected. It's not very useful right now, but interesting to see what Google's up to behind the scenes.

[Google OS]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play.

  • http://www.ronakg.com/ Ronak Gandhi

    Google keeps surprising us with such innovations in search. This is why they are still the king of search.

    • Ryuuie

      I like Google and all, but it's not really hard to be "king of search" when your other options are Yahoo! and Bing. :v

      The only thing Yahoo! has going for it is Tumblr and that's not even relevant because it's only tweens, teens, and SJWers who frequent there.

      Bing has...well..uhhh...Bing...has...the placements in Amazing Spider-Man. Yeah. I liked that movie but goddamn that was annoying. Bing, Sony Experia, and Windows everywhere. Sony's devices, I can understand...but Bing? Really Sony? No wonder Peter's disliked so much.

      • Stacey Liu

        To be fair, creating a good search service isn't easy. You're acting like Microsoft and Yahoo! aren't trying.

        • Ryuuie

          It may not be easy, but considering Microsoft's strategy to get people to use their services is to slander Google at every chance they get, try to force people into using SkyDrive on Windows 8.1, try to force people to pay for Office, try to talk people into using Bing by putting Bing in a big-budget movie, and try to charge Android OEMs fees, I'd say Microsoft isn't trying to be better. They're failing at it and they know it. And this comes from someone who's used Windows since I was 6 years old and have loved Windows up until recently.

          Yahoo!, on the other hand, knows they've lost ground but they're actually trying to remain in the public eye.

          • exadeci

            I use almost only google services and they force you too, you are forced to use Google+ to comment on android apps or on youtube.
            And google rised when yahoo was way bigger they just made the best algorithm that the others can't seem to equal.

          • Ryuuie

            You can easily make a G+ profile and just never fill it out thus you give Google no information. This can't be compared to Microsoft forcing SkyDrive/OneDrive on people in Windows and the only way to remove it is through gpedit.msc if you have a high enough version of Windows.

          • exadeci

            You can disable it in Pc Settings>SkyDrive

          • Ryuuie

            You can easily make a G+ profile and just never fill it out thus you give Google no information. This can't be compared to Microsoft forcing SkyDrive/OneDrive on people in Windows and the only way to remove it is through gpedit.msc if you have a high enough version of Windows.

  • Walkop

    Neat! I found this feature a few months back (Chrome 30…?) , but had absolutely no idea how it worked.

  • http://google.com/+DavidJohnson David J

    Will someone explain what the difference between this and a standard search is?

    • Leonardo Farage Freitas

      As Ryan mentioned, Google will search the highlighted word using the context around it (at least this is what I understand of contextual search, not an expert).

      A rough example: you're reading a article about the impact of bottled water on the environment, you highlight the word BOTTLED WATER. Using a normal search it would return results about brands and others results related to bottled water. But a contextual search would look for results related to the impact of bottled water on the environment.

      As I said, not an expert. Of course you could write "impact of bottled water on the environment", but I suspect a contextual search would bring more refined results. Anyway, perhaps somebody with better explaining skills could drop here :P

      I couldn't find a "Contextual Search" wiki page, but perhaps the Contextual Advertising page can shed a better light on the subject.


  • crimeariver

    word wrap and correct font sizes?

    called out on it's inability to perform the basic functions of a mobile web browser?


  • Vardan Nazaretyan

    Enabled it, restarted the browser. Doesn't show that UI. Maybe next updates will fix this.