Google is testing a search feature that enables users to chat live with businesses directly from the search results. The feature offers a live chat, known in the Google+ world as a Hangout, which works on desktop or mobile devices.
The user must search for a business and have that business return a query in search results. The chat window pops up in the search results if the business has an available employee to answer questions. This is another way for Google to bring social features from Google+ into search engine results and make tools from the social site valuable in Google's Knowledge Graph.
Matt Gibstein points to the chat tool in a Twitter post. The tweet, "Super interesting: @Google search now offering the ability to chat with local businesses (a la @Path Talk)," features results for Dizengoff, an Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia. The contact phone number and an ability to chat with someone at the business appear in the Knowledge Graph.
Gibstein compares Google's chat feature to Path Talk, which allows customers to text a restaurant for further information and receive a direct response.
The difference is that Google appears to have business owners respond themselves, whereas Path Talk sees requests routed through its staff or call center who contact the business on a customer's behalf and then gets back to them with a response.
Path Talk allows consumers to text any local business for free, whereas Google will likely charge an unconfirmed click-to-call fee. Through Path Talk, consumers can book an appointment with the business for a haircut or dinner reservations. They can also check product availability at a specific store.
The move to populate search results with direct access to information prompted Google to forge a partnership with AXS, Ticketfly and Ticketmaster. The query results now link directly to tickets when searching for a specific venue on the Web or in Google Maps. Searching for a band will return the group's tour schedules.
Knowledge Graph in Google's Web searches also serves up links to the social networking accounts when searching for a brand. The results now show links to social profiles for brand like Disney, Pixar, and Starbucks, referencing pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, MySpace, and Instagram.