If you’ve ever tried searching on Google for one of those TikTok or Instagram videos all your friends are gushing about—such as sea shanties or the Renegade dance—you’ll notice something. The videos don’t show up. Google is trying to fix that—but there’s no guarantee its efforts will succeed.
Google executives have been quietly negotiating with their counterparts at the video apps’ parent companies, ByteDance for TikTok and Facebook for Instagram, to get the data it needs to index and rank videos, according to three people who were briefed about the discussions. Right now, the best results users typically see when they search are previews of videos from Google-owned YouTube, which at times hosts lower-quality copies or ripoffs of TikTok and Instagram videos. The talks show how Google is trying to keep its search engine relevant with more users as it faces new competition and regulatory threats.