In a small-scale test, Google Search has started displaying like numbers for some of the articles in the Discover feed of Android apps.
Update: A significantly bigger rollout of this capability is now being tested by Google.

The like count might be a useful measure for determining which news and blog items to read while browsing content on social media. Of course, since Google was shut down, there hasn’t been a genuine social networking app from Google.

On the other hand, giving your positive or negative feedback on an article in the Google Discover feed has always been accessible. By upvoting posts you like and downvoting those you don’t, the feedback system was first largely focused on enhancing your particular tastes. This was eventually condensed to a heart button on each card, and the downvote was changed to a menu item called “Not interested in this.”

Google now seems to be experimenting with a second use for the “like” button for Discover feeds. A like counter that indicates how many other Google Search users have liked a post enough to upvote it is now displayed for individual articles and videos in the Discover stream as part of a small experiment.

The experimental like counter has so far only been noticed in a carousel of articles that are all about the same subject. Given that we only noticed the like count on a single device during a single refresh of the Google Discover feed, it appears to be even more constrained.

Update, May 10: Google is still experimenting with adding like numbers to the Discover feed. Individual stories in the Discover feed were noticed with a like counter in the most recent design. This is a significant improvement over the previous version, which was limited to carousels of related tales.

Notably, not all stories in the feed now display likes despite this new rollout for the Discover feeds like counter. What distinguishes those who display from those who don’t is unclear.

For the sake of organizational flow, we changed a few of the original article’s paragraphs.

The modification indicates a fascinating possible change for the Discover stream. There would be a clear indicator for potential readers of how well received a piece of content is. Smaller publications who are trying to get their content into more people’s Discover feeds could be impacted by this since they might feel pressured to persuade users to hit the “like” button.

However, there is yet no strong evidence that using the Discover feeds like buttons accomplishes anything other than aiding in the curation of your own feed. Some people might be surprised to learn that their comments are also shared (anonymously) as a recommendation of the content for others.

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