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posted by hubie on Wednesday June 22, @12:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the I've-got-a-secret dept.

Over at The Atlantic, Charlie Warzel wonders if Google Search is becoming a victim of its own success:

In February, an engineer named Dmitri Brereton wrote a blog post about Google's search-engine decay, rounding up leading theories for why the product's "results have gone to shit." The post quickly shot to the top of tech forums such as Hacker News and was widely shared on Twitter and even prompted a PR response from Google's Search liaison, Danny Sullivan, refuting one of Brereton's claims. "You said in the post that quotes don't give exact matches. They really do. Honest," Sullivan wrote in a series of tweets.

Brereton's most intriguing argument for the demise of Google Search was that savvy users of the platform no longer type instinctive keywords into the search bar and hit "Enter." The best Googlers—the ones looking for actionable or niche information, product reviews, and interesting discussions—know a cheat code to bypass the sea of corporate search results clogging the top third of the screen. "Most of the web has become too inauthentic to trust," Brereton argued, therefore "we resort to using Google, and appending the word 'reddit' to the end of our queries." Brereton cited Google Trends data that show that people are searching the word reddit on Google more than ever before.

[...] Google has built wildly successful mobile operating systems, mapped the world, changed how we email and store photos, and tried, with varying success, to build cars that drive themselves. [...] Most of the tech company's products—Maps, Gmail—are Trojan horses for a gargantuan personalized-advertising business, and Search is the one that started it all. It is the modern template for what the technology critic Shoshana Zuboff termed "surveillance capitalism."

The article goes on at length about ruthless commercialism via ever-intrusive ads, constant tweaks to the search algorithm, and how different generations use the ubiquitous search engine.

Previously:
Google's Ad Business Could Finally Crack Open
Google Allegedly Hid Documents From Search Monopoly Lawsuit, DOJ Claims
EU and UK Open Antitrust Probe Into Google and Meta Over Online Ads


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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @12:43PM (10 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @12:43PM (#1255335)

    yes, I've also noticed that google is trying more and more to send me to bloated javascript nonsense that won't show me useful text. fairly often it will send me to the front page of a blog, apparently leaving the job of finding the relevant post to me.
    however, if I google something and add "stackoverflow" to it, or "wiki", or some other site name, the results are a lot more useful than if I use the site's native search functionality (that's almost always junk).
    go figure.

    oh. and I keep trying to use duckduckgo, but it usually gives me useless results.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by soylentnewsfan1 on Wednesday June 22, @01:04PM (8 children)

      by soylentnewsfan1 (6684) on Wednesday June 22, @01:04PM (#1255338)

      I've been getting better and better results from https://search.brave.com [brave.com] it was and for many cases due to its original tuning, produces the same google results as google and even in about 1% of results mixes them in, but for the 99% of the rest it is independent and only improving. When I first used it, it was duckduckgo level, but it has shot past that, now it often (unfortunately not always) beats google in relevance, and I've already migrated about half of my devices to it, I can't wait to see what happens in a year, hopefully I'll be able to use it solely.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by liar on Wednesday June 22, @02:50PM (7 children)

        by liar (17039) on Wednesday June 22, @02:50PM (#1255360)

        I use Brave browser, but haven't tried their search engine. I have been moving from Duckduckgo on my devices to Startpage https://www.startpage.com/. [startpage.com] Is Brave search better?

        --
        Noli nothis permittere te terere.
        • (Score: 4, Informative) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday June 22, @03:02PM (5 children)

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 22, @03:02PM (#1255364) Homepage Journal

          +1 informative.

          Allow me to add a plug for Whoogle. I needed the phone number for a business in Mt. Pleasant minutes ago. I KNOW that doing a search on Google will give me hits that are nonsense, totally unrelated to the information I want. So, I go to my locally hosted Whoogle instance, type in the business name, press enter, and every single link is directly related to the business. The first link lands on the business' home page, complete with phone number, fax number, driving directions, a photo of the building, photos of personnel and equipment.

          Believe it or not, I got those results despite misspelling the business name in my search! The business name (misspelled) and the city were sufficient terms to get the information I needed.

          https://github.com/benbusby/whoogle-search [github.com]

          --
          Your private safe room in the back of your mind? Trump pooped in it.
          • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @03:18PM (2 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @03:18PM (#1255371)

            Ma Bell used to give away large paper books full of phone numbers.

            • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday June 22, @03:28PM

              by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 22, @03:28PM (#1255375) Homepage Journal

              Yes, and I would need a small library dedicated to the phone books, if I were to keep every phone book for every town within 100 miles of my home. Whats more, the phone book would only give me the phone number. All that information on the business' home page is potentially useful, like the driving directions.

              --
              Your private safe room in the back of your mind? Trump pooped in it.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, @03:04PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, @03:04PM (#1255824)
              Which would be stupid nowadays where most people with phones have mobile phones.

              A website would be better nowadays.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @07:05PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @07:05PM (#1255426)

            > ...Google will give me hits that are nonsense

            Yep, same result with Google search.
            However, using Google Maps usually gets me the local business information I need including phone number.

          • (Score: 5, Informative) by driverless on Thursday June 23, @03:31PM

            by driverless (4770) on Thursday June 23, @03:31PM (#1255601)

            I KNOW that doing a search on Google will give me hits that are nonsense, totally unrelated to the information I want.

            Yup, showing that Google’s Search liaison, Danny Sullivan, is full of shit with his "You said in the post that quotes don’t give exact matches. They really do. Honest": Enter search terms in quotes and you get a bunch of results that don't contain the quoted terms anywhere on the page. They really don't. Honest.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @05:49PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @05:49PM (#1255417)

          Startpage is a proxy to google (a proxy; they don't just use google's index).

          Nearly everyone else uses Bing indexes. As the duckduckgo censorship incident made famous, any censorship by MS in Bing's index also affects the downstream users of that index (MS was responsible for the censorship). Personal experience seems like Bing index is biased toward MS / Windows results for tech searches. When I tried to use duckduckgo, I ended up making a custom search adapter for firefox that auto appended -microsoft -windows to every search to make duckduckgo's results a little less useless.

          Brave uses both Bing and Yandex, and supposedly adds in their own indexing too. I saw pretty similar results to duckduckgo.

          yandex.eu an alternative to google/bing with their own indexes (supports English UI and results), but with the current war/sanctions, it has occasionally just redirected to (Russian only) yandex.ru. I have found useful results via yandex that did not surface with google, but google is better overall.

          Google search really does suck lately, but I haven't found an alternative that is as good for technical searches.

          You can block those shitty affiliate link fake review sites that are the first page(s) of search results when researching products and blogspam sites that just cut and paste other site content using custom ublock origin rulesets .

          e.g.,:
          https://github.com/darekkay/config-files/blob/master/adblocker/search-engines.txt [github.com]
          https://github.com/stroobants-dev/ublock-origin-shitty-copies-filter [github.com]

          Or, a dedicated extension (gives you a link in the search results to block a domain and easy list subscriptions, but it is yet another extension with access to your search activity)

          https://github.com/iorate/ublacklist [github.com]

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:09PM (#1255340)

      "Wiki" is not a site, and if you are trying to use DuckDuckGo, at least give a shot at the bangs: add a !so to your query to search directly on stackoverflow, !r on reddit, !w on Wikipedia, and so on...

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by soylentnewsfan1 on Wednesday June 22, @12:54PM

    by soylentnewsfan1 (6684) on Wednesday June 22, @12:54PM (#1255337)

    For those who like to jump directly to the comments first, for example you've just read this comment before reading the Atlantic article, here are the comments to the original blog post:
    Hackernews: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30347719 [ycombinator.com]
    Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/st9ri1/google_search_is_dying/ [reddit.com]

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Opportunist on Wednesday June 22, @01:18PM (9 children)

    by Opportunist (5545) on Wednesday June 22, @01:18PM (#1255341)

    I usually just append "-commercialbullshitsite -othercommercialbullshitsite -idiotspostanswersratherthancompetentpeoplesite" to the search query.

    At times, I wonder if there is a limit to the query length.

    • (Score: 0, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:47PM (6 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:47PM (#1255345)

      Google was never good, it was faster and had a larger database. They could do that because they made no effort to understand what was on the pages. This makes it a right pain as I don't think they even have the NEAR keyword, do if two search terms aren't immediately next to each other, you can't effectively screen the difference between them showing up together on the page or just on the same page. Perhaps they've fixed that, but I gave up trying, it or using, Google years ago. It's not appreciably better than Bing.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:50PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:50PM (#1255347)

        I guess they added around(x ) for near, but that's pretty cruddy when there was a keyword for that already.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:57PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @01:57PM (#1255349)

        "google was never good". oh, I'm sorry. please go back to yahoo! and altavista then.
        in the 90s I would search for "quantum physics" and get porn. and then google came along.

        • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday June 22, @03:08PM

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 22, @03:08PM (#1255368) Homepage Journal

          I'll second that. Google was, and is, better than everything that preceded Google. The fact that Google is growing less useful today doesn't change the fact that everything else sucked when Google was new.

          --
          Your private safe room in the back of your mind? Trump pooped in it.
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @04:53PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @04:53PM (#1255396)

          That's not a problem I ever had with any of the search engines. Perhaps you should get better at searching. Google is a nightmare compared with better search engines, the amount of work that has to go into crafting a query just do that the search includes relevant info is ridiculous.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @02:40PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @02:40PM (#1255358)

        Google actually was good, it replaced altavista for me in 1998. I think by 2002 though, they started playing around with ignoring keywords and quotes, inserting irrelevant junk.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @02:50PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @02:50PM (#1255361)

          metacrawler was a good search engine until it went to shit.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by EvilSS on Wednesday June 22, @04:43PM (1 child)

      by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 22, @04:43PM (#1255393)
      I've found that google will ignore the - terms if it thinks it knows better than you what you are looking for. It will also ignore quoted terms and still give results match similar terms but where the quoted terms are completely missing from the resulting page. It's annoying when you are looking for something obscure that requires using search terms that bring up something else much more common but totally unrelated.
      • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday June 23, @03:13AM

        by Reziac (2489) on Thursday June 23, @03:13AM (#1255508) Homepage

        This problem has been growing ever since quote marks stopped forcing an exact search =including= punctuation, which was back in the early 2000s. First punctuation got ignored, then "common terms" got ignored, then pretty soon even quotemarks would get a "did you mean..." that wasn't close and there was no changing its mind, and that's when I went off to DDG.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Snort on Wednesday June 22, @02:13PM (2 children)

    by Snort (5141) on Wednesday June 22, @02:13PM (#1255353)

    The reason that term leads google searches is that the native reddit search function is next to useless. The first bit of advice people on reddit give is to not use it and use googles with the site limiter or just tag on reddit.

    The have enough traffic that it is skewing Google's own reporting.

    Isn't this just evidence that sites neglect/ignore search and offload that to Google, who wants it that way.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tangomargarine on Wednesday June 22, @03:54PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday June 22, @03:54PM (#1255384)

      The reason that term leads google searches is that the native reddit search function is next to useless.

      In my experience this is the case with about 80% of all websites ever. Usually you have a better time finding something by just doing a Google search on it than the built-in one.

      One of my favorite examples was a page on this game wiki [coldfront.net] I use called "Kyliga Bollar", or Chilly Balls (including quotes). Somebody had gotten cute with the name of the page, and in the process ruined your ability to actually find it directly...typing either "kyliga bollar" or "chilly balls" in the search field wouldn't suggest it in the auto-complete. "Kyliga Bollar" wouldn't match because the algorithm was beginning-of-string and it wanted you to type the quote mark first, and apparently nobody added aliases for either part of the page name until I complained about it a week+ after it came out.

      (I would've figured out how to add it myself, but you had to include a reason why you wanted to register for a wiki account, and from accounts the active group of editors were one of those fun ones who would get in revert wars over people trying to be helpful in ways they slightly didn't like so I didn't want the drama. (Pretty sure the reason why many item droprates are still unlisted is because at some point somebody decided they didn't have enough significant digits and deleted everything with less than 3, too. I don't care whether it's 15.01% or 15.00%, but I need to know it's *somewhere* around 15%!))

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @06:20PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @06:20PM (#1255421)

      Amazon is the worst offender, for me. It feels like ebay is the last place that actually tries to search for what you actually searched before just shoveling whatever it thinks might be related at you.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @02:36PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @02:36PM (#1255357)

    If I search for something obscure now, half the returns are irrelevant articles only shown because they contain the name of the city my IP address geolocates to.

    This must be the natural decay of all search engines.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @03:27PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @03:27PM (#1255373)

    I'm not going to believe the article over my lying eyes. I've had great frustration with Google ignoring the double quotes, along with other operators.

    Google did use to be good, but they've steadily removed features I used (the archive link in the results was handy more often than it should have been), their results have degraded, and for a while there it wouldn't actually render any search results for me with Javascript disabled (which pushed me to DuckDuckGo, but I'm constantly looking for something better).

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by tangomargarine on Wednesday June 22, @03:40PM (1 child)

      by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday June 22, @03:40PM (#1255379)

      but they've steadily removed features I used (the archive link in the results was handy more often than it should have been)

      I just had to look into this the other day when I was having problems with a third-party wiki I use...it's still there, you just have to go into the "..." next to the result and look past 8 square inches of crap to find "Cached" at the bottom, instead of the nice simple version before where it was just "Archived" and one other menu entry.

      their results have degraded

      I'm sure they have their reasons for tailoring search results to the user, but once upon a time back in the golden ages, a Google search was actually reproducible for anybody. I miss that.

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @07:03PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @07:03PM (#1255425)

        Ah, thanks for the triple-dot bit. I block Javascript by default, and am not going to change that to get search results, so that's useless to me, but at least they haven't eliminated it entirely.

    • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Wednesday June 22, @03:42PM

      by captain normal (2205) on Wednesday June 22, @03:42PM (#1255380)

      Sounds to me like there is a good opportunity for a small group of coders.

      --
      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @03:47PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @03:47PM (#1255382)

    s/t

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @05:05PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @05:05PM (#1255401)

    What good is an ad about a product i just bought? Random ads would be much more useful to me anyway. I might realize that i need that product.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by donkeyhotay on Wednesday June 22, @10:38PM

    by donkeyhotay (2540) on Wednesday June 22, @10:38PM (#1255471)

    I saw that article a couple of days ago. His example search at the first of the article ("...poop coming from shower drain bad what to do...") really had me scratching my head. He's searching google in pidgin English the way John Wayne speaks to his Chinese cook in some old movie. Wouldn't "sewage in shower" be a more succinct and helpful search? I agree that there is a lot of unhelpful stuff sometimes in my search results, but "garbage in; garbage out". You're definitely not going to get good results if you word your searches like an imbecile.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by SomeGuy on Wednesday June 22, @11:26PM (3 children)

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Wednesday June 22, @11:26PM (#1255480)

    Google searches have indeed been getting worse lately. Just a couple of examples, I've had to do some image searches recently. These were for terms that were not too uncommon, and should have returned lots upon lots of results. Yet I only get perhaps one page, and not even an option to see potentially unrelated stuff.

    Increasingly I have to use site specific searches to return meaningful results, even if the terms or phrase only appears on one page anywhere. Otherwise I get a bazillion mostly unrelated sites first, if the result is even in there at all.

    There have also been multiple times when I have tried to search for some specific term that I KNOW is on a page - and I get nothing. Even doing a site specific search or search for other terms or phrases on the page turns up nothing - it's not freaking indexed at all, even though it has been out there for ages.

    Of course, many of the more general problems I run in to are simply useful information dropping off of the internet altogether. I remember in the days of AltaVista, although it could return a lot of garbage, it could find a lot of valuable gems hidden away in various corners of the net.

    It is getting to the point where if I want to research something, I'm probably better off reading paper books.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by kazzie on Thursday June 23, @04:24AM

      by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 23, @04:24AM (#1255522)

      Google may still be in Beta, but that doesn't mean it's getting any better.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @01:32PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @01:32PM (#1255575)

      "There have also been multiple times when I have tried to search for some specific term that I KNOW is on a page"
      are you implying that google keeps a copy of that page so that they can search it?
      I expect that's pretty hard to do, especially with everyone updating everything all the time.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, @04:24AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, @04:24AM (#1255732)

        Yes, they do keep copies. That's what Google Cache is, you know. Also, that's how search works — you download the page, you build the index, and wow! now you can find the words on that page. Do you mean that Google stopped building indexes, and simply returns random results now?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @12:09PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @12:09PM (#1255567)

    Reddit is just as gamed as google. Honesty is rapidly disappearing off its pages just as much.

    We're back to the days of running through multiple search engines. Something to that dead internet theory.

    Search for things google doesn't like and watch it return the same results or irrelevant results. Try searching for how communism is bad and get all the reasons communism is great back.

    Nobody's content can survive off of social media either unless it's a labor of love. There appears to be nothing but the corporate internet left.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @01:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @01:43PM (#1255576)

      "Nobody's content can survive off of" --- what does this mean?
      I have content on the internet that's been there for 15 years, not on social media.
      Still there.

      Or are you somehow measuring "survival" by number of visitors?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, @03:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, @03:23PM (#1255828)

    The sad thing is practically everyone's search is bad nowadays.
    1) Because they want to give you results that OTHER people want you to get. Not the stuff you searched for.
    2) Because the people with any semblance of competence cached out their options and retired in 2005 or similar.

    Heck just look at Outlook search for instance. In 1992 Eudora had a far better search (GUI driven, discoverable, etc) than Outlook in 2022. It actually found stuff you were searching for. Not something else some idiot thought you might be interested in.

    Then there's MS Team's "search". Which just finds you the message but you can't go to the actual context - as fucked up as a search engine that shows you the summary results but doesn't let you go to the actual webpage! How can you even get search that wrong? For personal usage nowadays computers can be so fast that even doing search in the brute force naive way would get you better results and fast enough. And I'd rather wait a minute and get what I searched for than get the wrong results in seconds (I suspect they purposely delay stuff too just for "psychological" reasons[1] ).

    [1] https://www.fastcompany.com/3061519/the-ux-secret-that-will-ruin-apps-for-you [fastcompany.com]
    https://90percentofeverything.com/2010/12/16/adding-delays-to-increase-perceived-value-does-it-work/index.html [90percentofeverything.com]

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