A couple of weeks ago, during his keynote address at Pubcon, Gary Illyes announced that Google is planning to divide their search index into two categories, mobile and desktop. The mobile index would become the primary one used for most searches and the desktop index would not be kept as up-to-date as the mobile index.
Gary Illyes is a webmaster trends analyst with Google. Although he didn't exactly say when this index split would occur, he did confirm that it would happen within months.
Other than that, there's not much more to go on.
So, what does this mean? Does this mean that the Internet, as seen via Google on our laptop and desktop systems will slowly become out dated? I've taken some time to think about it and, no, I don't think that will be the case. In fact, I think that's looking at the issue from the wrong end.
In April of last year, Google modified their ranking algorithm so, if a search were performed from a mobile device, websites that were not mobile-friendly would get listed below those that are mobile-friendly — regardless of how they might have ranked otherwise. This made sense, since in early 2014 the number of mobile devices used for Internet browsing bypassed the number of desktops and laptops being used — and mobile use has continued to grow at an accelerated rate.
Since mobile-usage is now the majority of all Internet activity, desktop-only websites — those that are not mobile-friendly — will continue to have less and less relevance.
From that perspective, I believe this index split is a natural evolution of last year's algorithm change. It's impact will not be felt at the Internet browser, whether that be on a mobile device, or not, but at those websites that are not yet mobile-friendly. Google will spend most of their time searching, indexing, and ranking mobile-friendly websites, and will likely only index and rank non mobile-friendly websites as time allows.
The experience of performing a Google search on a mobile or non-mobile device will be very similar, except that non-friendly websites will simply not be visible on mobile, and will become rarely visible on a desktops or laptops. The issue won't be which browser or device you're using, but whether your website is seen at all.
For the last year or more, it's been important that your website be mobile-friendly, but now it's imperative if you want to maintain your presence on the Internet.