41 votes

Google search is dying: Reddit is currently the most popular search engine. The only people who don’t know that are the team at Reddit, who can’t be bothered to build a decent search interface.

27 comments

  1. [5]
    NaraVara
    (edited )
    Link
    There’s a dimension to this problem that I think the article is missing so it’s only addressing half the issue. In the past, if you searched for stuff your results were likely to be a blog or a...
    • Exemplary

    There’s a dimension to this problem that I think the article is missing so it’s only addressing half the issue.

    In the past, if you searched for stuff your results were likely to be a blog or a forum thread. Today the bloggers have evolved into instagrammers, TikTokkers, YouTubers, or Podcasters. The Forums and community pages have moved to Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Discord, etc. So we’ve seen a steady shift from discussion happening in open platforms that are easily indexed by search engines as they crawl text, to discussion happening either in closed platforms that can't be indexed or in a medium that isn't easily crawled. What blogs we have left are usually general "think pieces" about cultural issues of the day or current events rather than evergreen content.

    Once upon a time if I searched for "how to do [thing]" you were likely to find a series of blog entries, blog comment threads, or forum posts. Now you are most likely to find a YouTube video followed by a bunch of Reddit threads that don't have answers. A blog entry or comment threads you can actually skim quickly to see if it's relevant. But a YouTube video you have to dedicate several minutes and sit through an ad before you can even decide if it's even about your specific question, and it will take you even longer to decide if they're doing a good job of addressing your question or if they're just prone to meandering blabber because they don't know how to organize their thoughts while speaking.

    So it’s not just that SEO and botspam has eaten the Google results page, it’s that this is all that’s left of the open internet that search engines were designed to navigate. Much of it truly is a wasteland, battered by scammers undermining the foundation of trust, spambots overwhelming the abilities of amateurs to moderate effectively, SEO outcompeting honest content to where it's not worth it to bother, a business model around advertising and attention management that has choked off the abilities of independent creators to make a living, and a variety of other forces that have functionally destroyed the web as we used to know it.

    Google owns part of the blame for crippling RSS, privileging recent pages and specific domains or AMP pages over evergreen, self-hosted content in search results, and trying to push everyone into Web 2.0 nonsense that they sucked at instead of the traditional web that they were good at. But also users have given up on the open internet in droves. Instead of starting a fansite they will start fan subreddits or discords instead because the advantages in technical support, moderation tools, security, and discoverability are simply too good to ignore. If we had established standards for data exchange and interoperability we might be able to have an open, indexable, and people powered internet again. But as long as the whole game is about getting a critical mass of users and locking them in while the self-hosting world is constantly beset by scammers, hackers, and spam--even as established incumbents cold shoulder you out of being able to get attention--that won't change.

    48 votes
    1. fional
      Link Parent
      I suspect there's an arms race for content creators at play here too: in the early days of the internet there was virtually infinite supply of attention, and finite quantities of content. Making...

      I suspect there's an arms race for content creators at play here too: in the early days of the internet there was virtually infinite supply of attention, and finite quantities of content. Making content was technically hard and/or expensive, so as long as you were willing and able to jump those hoops as a content creator, you could do very little else and search engine crawlers would feed you traffic.

      Today, the situation has reversed; we've made it extremely easy to publish content for consumption, and now there's essentially finite attention and infinite content. Even excluding SEO spam and bots, there's multiple hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, multiple hours of mediocre-if-acceptable music being posted to SoundCloud, millions of generally decent but uninteresting photos being posted to Instagram/Flickr, etc.

      As a result, attention is a zero-sum game, and it's unavoidable that as a creator, you spend a lot of time thinking about optimizing how you get your material in front of real people. Nobody likes spending hours on a creative project only, at the end, to chuck it into the inky void of irrelevance. Instead, you have to find out where the people are. That might mean YouTube yesterday, TikTok today, and some new fad tomorrow (Clubhouse, anyone?).

      The idea of "renting a web host and writing some HTML" is about as archaic a distribution mechanism as being a town crier today, so no one does it. There's no magical new search engine that's going to find content that no longer is made today.

      19 votes
    2. raze2012
      Link Parent
      Yup, this nails the main itch I had reading through the article. I saw that tweet mentioning different social media peaks, mentiong how Reddit has yet to peak. My first thought was "how many of...

      So we’ve seen a steady shift from discussion happening in open platforms that are easily indexed by search engines as they crawl text, to discussion happening either in closed platforms that can't be indexed or in a medium that isn't easily crawled.

      Yup, this nails the main itch I had reading through the article. I saw that tweet mentioning different social media peaks, mentiong how Reddit has yet to peak. My first thought was "how many of these sites even show up on google unprompted?"

      MySpace and Facebook are usually considered closed off personal communities outside of the "groups" . Which are more like news pieces than actual comments. Instagram and Twitter a continually hounding the user to make an account. Snapchat's whole appeal was that conversations were ephemeral. And while it's not mentioned there, Discord is completely unindexed; you have to join a server and search from there to find content/conversations.

      Don't know if its coincidental or completely intended, but social media doesn't want itself to be easily searched and marked by people randomly googling. These major sites thrive fine from people in the community searching around.

      If we had established standards for data exchange and interoperability we might be able to have an open, indexable, and people powered internet again.

      I argue the tools are and were always there. But reddit is the wordpress of discussion forums. using those open tools design a forum, manage permissions, setup moderation and configure SEO (yes, ironic) is out of the league of most users and is prone to less success. Meanwhile, Wordpress/reddit does all this for you, and gives you a userbase. Most people hosting these kinds of things naturally want traffic, so I feel the result was inevitable, at least not without an eccentric billionaire who respects decentralization above all else.

      6 votes
    3. skybrian
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I agree that video content is getting quite popular. I also dislike this trend. In particular I think it would be great if people who post links to videos would also summarize them, much like some...

      I agree that video content is getting quite popular. I also dislike this trend. In particular I think it would be great if people who post links to videos would also summarize them, much like some people want you to add alt text for images. (I’m not going to watch political videos posted to Tildes, no matter how great someone thinks the content is.)

      But I’m unconvinced that there is less written content than before. I think it might just be harder to find? The spammers seem to be winning again.

      Also, sometimes people have an exaggerated idea about how good the early Internet was. There were lots of subjects where there wasn’t much about them because mainstream users hadn’t shown up yet. There was plenty about computers and games but I didn’t used to expect to find much useful info about car repair, for example.

      5 votes
    4. bkimmel
      Link Parent
      One of my favorite "what ifs" to think about is Google not killing Reader and instead building on it to push the "next version of the Web". Would have been so much more profitable for them and for...

      Google owns part of the blame for crippling RSS, privileging recent pages and specific domains or AMP pages over evergreen, self-hosted content in search results, and trying to push everyone into Web 2.0 nonsense that they sucked at instead of the traditional web that they were good at.

      One of my favorite "what ifs" to think about is Google not killing Reader and instead building on it to push the "next version of the Web". Would have been so much more profitable for them and for humanity. Twitter never happens on a large scale... Probably Trump never happens. The further we get into this version of the future, the worse that decision looks. Even in other areas, the reputation Google got from killing Reader hampers their cloud efforts, etc.

      3 votes
  2. kfwyre
    Link
    I definitely do this. One thing the article didn't bring up is the utility of searching specific subreddits. If I want to search for info on, say, weighted blankets on the broad internet, the top...

    I definitely do this.

    One thing the article didn't bring up is the utility of searching specific subreddits. If I want to search for info on, say, weighted blankets on the broad internet, the top links are all options to just buy them (e.g. Target, Amazon) or content written specifically to try to get me to buy one through affiliate links (e.g. blog posts telling me about the "best" ones). If, on the other hand, I search the posts in /r/weightedblankets, I can scour a corner of the internet that a) is explicitly focused on the topic I want, b) more human than bot/ad, and c) more likely to turn up non-purchase-driven information. It's a better experience all around.

    29 votes
  3. [4]
    streblo
    Link
    Very true and indicative of the long term trend of the web where technically literate people are left with a decent ad free experience monetized by the technically illiterate who can’t/don’t...

    Google is dead.

    Long live Google + “site:reddit.com”.

    Very true and indicative of the long term trend of the web where technically literate people are left with a decent ad free experience monetized by the technically illiterate who can’t/don’t navigate/circumvent the platform as well.

    23 votes
    1. [3]
      shiruken
      Link Parent
      It's unfortunate that Reddit has been "polluting" Google search results by altering the publication date so that it's impossible to get results using custom date filters. Almost every submission...

      It's unfortunate that Reddit has been "polluting" Google search results by altering the publication date so that it's impossible to get results using custom date filters. Almost every submission shows up on Google as recent even if it's years old.

      12 votes
      1. [2]
        Wes
        Link Parent
        I don't think that was intentional. It seemed like a bug, as I haven't seen it for a few months.

        I don't think that was intentional. It seemed like a bug, as I haven't seen it for a few months.

        1 vote
        1. shiruken
          Link Parent
          Hmm I feel like I've had issues with it recently. Maybe I'm mis-remembering. Also should clarify that I don't think Reddit is/was doing it intentionally. I think there was something funky going on...

          Hmm I feel like I've had issues with it recently. Maybe I'm mis-remembering.

          Also should clarify that I don't think Reddit is/was doing it intentionally. I think there was something funky going on with how Google was indexing the last activity on the submissions.

          5 votes
  4. Liru
    Link
    Another factor in the decline of Google for me is the inaccessibility of information that you know to be there. Coincidentally enough... while recently looking for a data dump of Deus Ex quotes, I...

    Another factor in the decline of Google for me is the inaccessibility of information that you know to be there. Coincidentally enough... while recently looking for a data dump of Deus Ex quotes, I think I found a weird edge case in Google that pretty much makes me question what their criteria for showing search results is. By typing this out and revealing it, I'm probably going to be destroying it for the future, but I'll add it in screenshots so it's preserved. If anyone knows why removing an optional search term from a phrase with a quote in it gives less results, I'd love to know.

    Searching for deus ex "I tried to buy your friend a reprieve" gives me exactly one result. Relevant, and surprisingly rare, considering how much meme potential it has, and how simple it is to access in-game.

    Removing the deus ex part and only using "I tried to buy your friend a reprieve" gives exactly zero, and tries to give me unrelated results.

    On another note, the update at the end from the Googler working on search functionality seems very wrong from my experience, since I recall running into the "quotes are ignored" issue multiple times before slowly switching over to DDG. I tried to search for some examples in my Google history so that I could immediately post something and win the Internet Argument™, or at least look them over to see if I was wrong. Appropriately enough, search doesn't work too well there, either. :V

    19 votes
  5. [5]
    balooga
    Link
    I agree that Google search results are getting worse, but where is the superior alternative? I use DDG for its stance on privacy, but often those results are markedly worse than Google's. As I...

    I agree that Google search results are getting worse, but where is the superior alternative? I use DDG for its stance on privacy, but often those results are markedly worse than Google's. As I understand it DDG is just a wrapper around Bing, with a couple extras thrown in. I'm not aware of any other search engines that are remotely competitive to those three.

    14 votes
    1. [2]
      Don_Camillo
      Link Parent
      internet search is close to death. searching for anything that can be sold just gives you spam, no matter where you search. for everything else DDG is a fine alternative to google. i switched some...

      internet search is close to death. searching for anything that can be sold just gives you spam, no matter where you search. for everything else DDG is a fine alternative to google. i switched some time ago, it took me a week or two to get acustomed to the different look and feel. i dont think there really is a noticable difference in quality, its just different. i dont know how to explain it, but if i use google now, i get the same feeling of uneasiness i had with Bing or DDG before i switched.

      anyway, if im properly researching something i use multiple engines, as that gives me consitently better results.

      6 votes
      1. bub
        Link Parent
        My searches tend to be mostly technical and often programming-related. Searching on DDG gives me mostly useless results, and what's worse, it doesn't respect terms in quotes. I tried for several...

        My searches tend to be mostly technical and often programming-related. Searching on DDG gives me mostly useless results, and what's worse, it doesn't respect terms in quotes. I tried for several months to use DDG as my default search engine, but found myself consistently putting "!g" in front of my query when I actually needed a good result. Which was most of the time.

        So I'd say there is a noticeable difference, and I'm sorry to say it.

        12 votes
    2. post_below
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      You're right, at least as far as I know. Google and Bing are essentially the only options if you want a search engine with a huge index. There are lots of alternative search engines in various...

      You're right, at least as far as I know. Google and Bing are essentially the only options if you want a search engine with a huge index.

      There are lots of alternative search engines in various stages of development, some promising, but none are close to viable yet (compared to Bing and Google for mass market). SEO spam is a hard problem to solve. Even Bing's deep pockets haven't gotten them close enough to Google to be a reasonable alternative for most people.

      Even a theoretical innovative new search engine with relevant results would have a hard time getting a user base big enough to fund the constant iteration required because G has a stranglehold on the market.

      Unless public sentiment about G were to shift drastically, that would open things up. Not impossible, but short term it's hard to imagine G losing its dominance.

      5 votes
    3. inwardpath
      Link Parent
      I currently use Qwant (replaced all my searches with it), and so far it's been a decent replacement except for some quality of life things, like being able to search tracking numbers and get links...

      I currently use Qwant (replaced all my searches with it), and so far it's been a decent replacement except for some quality of life things, like being able to search tracking numbers and get links to carrier sites automatically. I do feel like some sites don't hit the results nearly as much as they do on Google, though (particularly bandcamp for some reason)

      I do think overall the issue is bigger than Google- though it's possible search engine companies could overcome the issue by finding some proper anti-spam techniques. But Google's results are particularly terrible a lot of the time.

      2 votes
  6. Seven
    Link
    Any time I need to make a big purchase, I always search Reddit in this way. It's really the only way to get actual humans' opinions on something.

    Any time I need to make a big purchase, I always search Reddit in this way. It's really the only way to get actual humans' opinions on something.

    6 votes
  7. [10]
    petrichor
    (edited )
    Link
    Also on HN. As Google has been getting progressively worse, a lot of cool new search engines have been popping up! I linked this the last time search engines came up, but a community member put...

    Also on HN.

    As Google has been getting progressively worse, a lot of cool new search engines have been popping up! I linked this the last time search engines came up, but a community member put together a great overview of search engines with independent indexes some time ago.

    5 votes
    1. [9]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      There appears to be a few issues with the markdown in your comment. A few links are broken, and there's a paragraph that doesn't show up unless I view the markdown.

      There appears to be a few issues with the markdown in your comment. A few links are broken, and there's a paragraph that doesn't show up unless I view the markdown.

      2 votes
      1. [7]
        piedpiper
        Link Parent
        I didn't know you could view the markdown of other people's comments. Interesting! Yeah, they have a whole paragraph wrapped in an HTML comment tag: <!-- --> You can use that when writing HTML to...

        I didn't know you could view the markdown of other people's comments. Interesting!

        Yeah, they have a whole paragraph wrapped in an HTML comment tag: <!-- -->

        You can use that when writing HTML to add a comment to your code that won't get rendered in the browser.

        4 votes
        1. Omnicrola
          Link Parent
          Two of my favorite tiny-but-useful features of Tildes : View markdown (eg "how did they do that nice formatting??") The preview tab when writing a new comment ( eg "is that MD going to format the...

          Two of my favorite tiny-but-useful features of Tildes :

          • View markdown (eg "how did they do that nice formatting??")
          • The preview tab when writing a new comment ( eg "is that MD going to format the way I think it will?")
          8 votes
        2. [5]
          balooga
          Link Parent
          5 votes
          1. [2]
            Akir
            Link Parent
            Maybe one day we can get access to inline CSS and we'll turn into the next MySpace. :P

            Maybe one day we can get access to inline CSS and we'll turn into the next MySpace. :P

            6 votes
          2. [2]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            Yo this is a great way to do spoiler text!

            Yo this is a great way to do spoiler text!

            1 vote
            1. cfabbro
              Link Parent
              Spoilers Yeah, that's actually not a bad idea... because the details/summary box has some issues. E.g. Minimize this comment by clicking [-] to see the collapsed text.
              Spoilers

              Yeah, that's actually not a bad idea... because the details/summary box has some issues. E.g. Minimize this comment by clicking [-] to see the collapsed text.

              1 vote
      2. petrichor
        Link Parent
        Whoops, the links are fixed now. I actually commented out that paragraph myself after writing it and deciding to not keep it.

        Whoops, the links are fixed now. I actually commented out that paragraph myself after writing it and deciding to not keep it.

        2 votes