The first is a problem of Google’s own making: the SEO monster has eaten the user experience of search from the inside out. Searching the web for information is an increasingly user-hostile experience, an arbitrage racket run by search-optimized content sharks running an ever-changing series of monetization hustles with no regard for anything but collecting the most pennies at the biggest scale. AI-powered content farms focused on high-value search terms like heat-seeking missiles are already here; Google is only now catching up, and its response to them will change how it sends traffic around the web in momentous ways.
That leads to the second problem, which is that chat-based search tools like Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s own Bard represent something that feels like the future of search, without any of the corresponding business models or revenue that Google has built up over the past 25 years. If Google Search continues to degrade in quality, people will switch to better options — a switch that venture-backed startups and well-funded competitors like Microsoft are more than happy to subsidize in search of growth, but which directly impacts Google’s bottom line. At the same time, Google’s paying tens of billions annually to device makers like Apple and Samsung to be the default search engine on phones. Those deals are up for renewal, and there will be no pity for Google’s margins in these negotiations.
Search on the web is in a terrible state right now. Searching for anything on Google is a horrible experience, with results riddled with ads and an endless stream of SEO’d garbage content of low to no quality. Alternatives, such as DuckDuckGo, aren’t much better, and tend to promote garbage anti-science and fascist nonsense if you’re not careful enough. At this point I just don’t know what to use to find stuff on the web, and tend to just go straight to sites that I think have the best odds of containing a relevant result (e.g. going straight to Reddit when dealing with some obscure bug or software issue).
I know there are even smaller competitors, but I don’t hold high hopes they can offer the same breadth as Google once did, or even DuckDuckGo sometimes does now. It’s not looking pretty out there.