The end of the Googleverse

Google officially went online later in 1998. It quickly became so inseparable from both the way we use the internet and, eventually, culture itself, that we almost lack the language to describe what Google’s impact over the last 25 years has actually been. It’s like asking a fish to explain what the ocean is. And yet, all around us are signs that the era of “peak Google” is ending or, possibly, already over.

There is a growing chorus of complaints that Google is not as accurate, as competent, as dedicated to search as it once was. The rise of massive closed algorithmic social networks like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram began eating the web in the 2010s. More recently, there’s been a shift to entertainment-based video feeds like TikTok — which is now being used as a primary search engine by a new generation of internet users.

Google has consistently been getting worse in both user experience and search results for years now, but the frustrating thing is that Google has been – and still is – so incredibly dominant, that there really isn’t any viable competition. DuckDuckGo is nice, I guess, and I use it, but in the end it’s just Bing with extra steps, and it shows in its own rather dismal search results. Everything else barely deserves a mention.

While I hear good things about Kagi, their business model just is not suited for someone like me who relies on searching the web more than most people do – I’m a translator, and we have to be effectively experts in so many fields that I almost spend more time searching and cross-referencing terminology in all kinds of fields than I do actually writing down the definitive translations. Add to that the various topics I need to cover for OSNews, and even their 1000 searches a month for $10 is not enough, and paying $25 per month for their unlimited tier – or $300 a year – is absolutely bonkers expensive.

And we all know those prices are only going to go up.

So, online search is in a bad spot right now, and I don’t think adding “AI” to it is going to make it any better – in fact, it’s probably only going to make it worse. There’s definitely a massive opportunity here for someone to make an actually good, no-nonsense search engine, but crawling and indexing the web is prohibitively expensive, so even the pricey stuff like Kagi relies on Google and others for its results.

I wish Google would just focus their search efforts on making a good search engine, sprinkled with some ads in the sidebar or occasionally interspersed inside the results, clearly marked. They have the data, they have the index – why are they making search worse, instead of better?

I hate this headline.


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