Friday, August 27, 2021

Bemoaning the Lost Golden Age of Google

Yet another post based on my Twitter habit. This one started with a tweet from someone called Elaine Scattermoon, who said,

It's been a trip seeing Google go from guessing at what you could possibly mean, to showing you what you meant, to showing you what marketers wish you'd meant instead. There's not much discovery to the internet anymore. It feels less like a library and more like a store, [where] you know what you're ordering rather than seeking and finding out.

Have you noticed that? 

I switched from Google to Duck Duck Go a while back, but my search results are not great even so, compared to what they used to be like. Occasionally I switch over to Google to see if I get better results, and while I see more paid placements than on Duck Duck Go, I do also get more relevant results for recent topics especially, I think. But I don't like the idea of having my results tracked, so I stick to Duck Duck Go as much as I can.

Anyway, the thread that Scattermoon was responding to was full of interesting observations about Google, paid results, and other aspects of modern search. It started from Bill Black, a high school history teacher and editor, who posted this:

Something I don't think millennial teachers fully appreciate about GenZ is that googling has gotten a lot harder in the last decade. I don't think I'm crazy, I try finding stuff online now and just *know* that if I googled it in high school the top results would've mostly been .org/.gov sites and a couple cool blogs. Now it's all Quizlet, Pinterest, and Khan Academy. Or it's some legit site but the links are all dead/use Flash.

A lot of people responded to Black. These are some of the best thoughts, in my opinion:

Yeah now if you Google something it will lead you to
1. Something you have to pay to actually see
2. Something that only is kind of related to what you need but mostly is not
3. Straight up false information dressed up like legitimate information

4. Something that looks absolutely perfectly like what you're looking for in preview but they stopped paying hosting fees years ago so it's just a domain-for-sale squatter site when you actually click on it.
eric lab rat

Really, really true. Even the difference between me googling answers to the endless questions my child asked at 4 and 5 and what turns up at 12 is marked. Out here slogging through ads and scams and clickbait oh my.

One of my major complaints about Google is that they put together a product that was so good that it stomped out nearly all of its competition... and then let that product turn into shit in exchange for ad revenue. If that's not an object lesson in why monopolies are bad...

Occasionally out of habit I'll try to go down a google search rabbit hole on something like I used to back in the day, and I always just get bummed out that it doesn't really work anymore.
Peter Frase

It can be REALLY hard to find useful images without adding "-pinterest" to your image search to filter out the eight million pinterest results

Pinterest should be removed from the internet, not just from google. Every time I end up there without realising what I'm clicking on, and then nothing works, because the entire site is one big scam. It's a disgrace and I don't know why google even index them, other than incompetence.

Unfortunately Pinterest has been around long enough it’s the host for a ton of images from dead links yet with rich metadata, so it’s unfortunately become valuable in a way. They should really, really partner with the internet archive to cross reference
Will Pierce @greatistheworld

I talk about this ALL THE TIME. Google used to be way less "smart" which meant it was easier to search for specific things and was way less focused on where to buy stuff.
Psyche Z. Ready

We should teach kids it's OK to start your research with Wikipedia, just don't cite it as a source

Teach them to start with source-mining from the Wikipedia article references.

When I was a kid watching Star Trek, I always wondered why the Federation had lost all the records of late 20th and early 21st centuries. Now I know.
Doug Piero Carey

Aside from the particulars of what these folks are talking about, it's a special pleasure (or maybe it's pain, but either way it's interesting) for a Baby Boomer to listen in on Millennials talking about what has been lost since they were young. 

Bill Black ended his original thread with this:

To be clear, I don't think this is entirely the fault of Google *or* other websites. It's a feedback loop: Google changes its algorithm, websites hire SEO people to game it, people click the sites, Google figures those are the sites you wanna see.

And that's most likely true. But it doesn't change the argument one of the commenters made about monopoly power, and the fact that Google is trying to sell ads and therefore eyeballs. Wikipedia's search results aren't changed by SEO (though, of course, Wikipedia has a different set of problems).


1 comment:

Barbara said...

I thought it was just me. Thank you for curating this concise wrap up of the problem.