Google surrenders positions. People are increasingly searching with TikTok and Reddit / Habr

Google surrenders positions. People are increasingly searching with TikTok and Reddit / Habr

In a few years, the expression “google it” may cease to be relevant. Google gradually ceases to be associated with the search for information on the Internet. A whole category of users is growing, which uses completely different search methods, which cannot be confused with SEO links.

Of course, Google is still the king of search. The platform, according to SimilarWeb, occupies 92% of the world market of search engines On mobile devices, the dominance is even more significant: 95%. But increasingly, users are publicly complaining about the quality of its work, and there are a number of signs of declining quality.

In 2021, TikTok for the first time, according to web security company Cloudflare dropped by Google from the post of the most popular site in the world. So far, only by the amount of traffic, although the number of users here is also growing rapidly. By 60% in 2020, by 41% in 2021 and by 24% in 2022. According to the data, presented Last year, Prabhakar Raghavan, the senior vice president of Google, about 40% of the representatives of the younger generation, who were born between 1997 and 2012, prefer to find information on TikTok. Even such traditionally “textual” things as recipes and news.

by data According to research firm eMarketer, Google’s share of search advertising revenue will fall to 54% this year, down from 67% in 2016. The company itself is focusing on other areas, and next year it will begin to receive its main income not from search, but from cloud services, YouTube advertising, the Google Play store, and a dozen other areas. Each of them adds only a few tens of billions of revenue to the overall pot (against $162 billion of revenue from search advertising), but allows to reduce dependence on that part of the business whose long-term future is in question.

Users are simply complaining by the thousands about the declining usefulness of Google search in tweets and tiktoks. I will give only a few examples here, but there are actually thousands of them. Criticizing Google is becoming fashionable. There is not a trace left of the image of the “kindest corporation”, even Alphabet itself has not advertised itself for so long.

Google is aware of the problem with its popularity, especially among the younger generation – on which the future of the Internet can be said. It recently announced a host of innovations, including new search resultsgenerated by artificial intelligence. However, it may, on the contrary, accelerate the downfall of the search giant: there are big questions about the quality of such information and the ethicality of its use based on the data of various sites (without providing traffic).

Be that as it may, the fundamental problems underlying Google’s decline cannot be solved overnight, even with the help of AI. Experts say that as the company has grown its revenue, useful search results have been deliberately downplayed in favor of advertising. They were placed lower in the search results, and the top pages were filled by more and more sites paid by the company. The search is also tangible suffers from SEO spam, which often pushes the relevant results that users need to the second page or even beyond. In recent months, this spam is often generated by artificial intelligence, and is full of uniquely low-quality information. However, it often occupies high positions in the algorithm, and the company has not yet learned to automatically detect it.

This combination of problems “has weakened Google’s ranking system to the point that the presence of a link in the top search results correlates more with the degree of fraud than with relevance,” writes Corey Doctorow, a Canadian philosopher, in his blog. — “It’s a vicious cycle: the worse Google’s search results are, the more important it is to remain the default search. And the more resources they are ready to spend.”

Online customers compare working with a company’s product to looking for something useful in a trash can or a needle in a haystack. “Google content is what Google wants you to find, not the right search result,” – Ed Zitron writes in Business Insider, Head of EZPR. — “It’s like you have to trick Google into giving you what you want.” According to him, a particularly noticeable regression appeared about five years ago.

Over time, users have developed various mechanisms to overcome product shortcomings. For example, using quotation marks to find the exact phrase you want, searching by image to see really high-quality sites on a topic, or scrolling through the first ten results to avoid the most blatant SEO.

Others simply prefer to search for information on other platforms, even if they are not search engines. They use a Reddit search, or add the words “Reddit” and “Stack Overflow” to the end of their Google search, knowing that posts on these forums often contain more useful information than what Google can find.

“Wikipedia”, the main page of which is now the default is a search bar, is also becoming an increasingly popular tool for finding information. Some reporters and users say that they prefer the Wikipedia program to Google, despite all its shortcomings. This way, you can find relevant data much faster: in 2-3 screens, instead of 5-10.

Annie Rauwerda, founder of «The depth of Wikipedia” — pages on Instagram with a million subscribers, where the least known and interesting facts are published — says that “Wikipedia” for her performs many of the functions originally promised by Google. It is constantly updated, there are standards for accessing information, data sources are indicated there, and there is no useless content that just wastes your time. Google search, according to Annie, “was supposed to be just as easy, but it was completely destroyed by SEO and garbage content from AI.”

Google is not only facing an erosion of trust in its core product due to SEO spam. It is still struggling to find its place in an increasingly fragmented online environment. Fifteen years ago, search was the main point of access for users to the wider web. Now there are a lot of these points. More and more users are finding the content they need on social platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and so on. Internet search as a tool for mass interaction with the digital environment seems to be gradually receding into the past.

Sid Raskind, a content creator based in Los Angeles, says he looks for information almost exclusively on TikTok. “It’s easier and more convenient to quickly see how something is happening on TikTok than to sift through a bunch of information hoping to find an answer.”

Alex Stevens, a middle and high school history teacher in Wisconsin, says more and more of his students are unlikely to be able to Google anything effectively. Instead, they look for information in the form of videos, often on YouTube or TikTok. “They expect Google to work like ChatGPT,” he said. “They want an unequivocal answer, and they don’t want to analyze information or engage in synthesis.”

“Young people today are more interested in watching videos than browsing texts in search of information. Plus, you can do it passively, with headphones or without looking at the screen at all.”

To cope with this changing trend, Google has begun integrating more content from social networks, including TikTok, directly into search results. For example, if you’re looking for tips on how to properly use household tools or diet tips, video guides from TikTok and YouTube will mostly be on the first page of your search. The company also recently announced that it will soon release several updates related to artificial intelligence – to not only show the information it finds, but also to convert it into a more convenient, shorter and simpler format. Soon, when a user mocks something, he will receive a clear answer in natural language, written by AI.

But in a world where people increasingly value individuality, character and naturalness, these updates only risk alienating users. “People now want that authenticity that you get from a real person because it’s happening on TikTok. They want parasocial relationships, not a cold, sterile environment,” says Sarah Latoza, a technical manager who has worked in online search for 15 years. According to her, Google’s move towards AI can only accelerate the decline in popularity of the company’s products in the long run.

Some of the users who opted out of Google search told The Washington Post that they don’t plan to go back. Ed Button, director of the Missouri Community Anti-Poverty Group, said he has “walked away” from Google and now uses Bing. “I tell people about it and they look at me like I’m speaking Greek.” But he finds Bing more useful and likes that he can exchange points earned from using the service for gift cards. “I’m always looking for something, so why not make some profit out of it?”

Elan Ullendorff, a Pittsburgh-based web designer and educator who teaches a course at the University of Pennsylvania called “Escape the Algorithm,” even went so far as to make list from two dozen of his favorite little-known search engines. From Newgle to Carrot2. According to him, “there is no big profit or audience in these self-made search engines. They are small enough that companies have no financial incentive to try to game their algorithms. That’s why you can often find really beautiful and useful things there.”

Elan believes that the next era of information exchange will still be dominated by people. “Human curation will always be the best way to get recommendations. We all want to communicate, express our opinions and listen to other people’s advice,” he said. — “If we’re not looking for super-cold indisputable facts, then, as people say is as important information to us as what what they speak.”

The shift to AI-powered search results is likely to make Google even more automated and less human. Ullendorff believes that we are at a tipping point with generative AI, and soon the new scale of SEO spam could make “general” search engines even more useless. So users will have to learn to search within specific interesting sites.

“As bad as Google is, it’s going to get worse in the near future. Regardless of whether it will be transferred to issuance from AI or not,” Elan said. — “Perhaps he will receive information better, but the quality of this data, if taken on average over the Internet, is gradually decreasing. I think it will only get worse. I hope I’m wrong.”

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