Google Revamps Search to Combat Decline in Usefulness and Compete with Social Platforms

  • Ella Hyam
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Google Revamps Search to Combat Decline in Usefulness and Compete with Social Platforms

In response to mounting criticism that Google Search has lost some of its effectiveness and user satisfaction, with even company executives acknowledging a shift in younger demographics towards platforms for search purposes, Google is set to introduce two innovative approaches aimed at revitalizing the user experience.

The first approach allows individual users to curate their search experience by 'following' topics they find interesting. This change means that as users express interest in particular subjects, Google will actively update them with recent and relevant information pertaining to those topics. This new 'Follow' function within search results adds a more dynamic and tailored content curation. The feature is designed to alert users not to everything associated with their search terms but to fresh and intriguing content specifically chosen for them. It will appear both as specialized modules within search results and on the Google app's Discover page, a customized news feed. Not only will this help users stay informed without extra searches or filtering through alternative platforms, but it also enables Google to gather interests-related data in a more privacy-respecting manner.

Furthermore, Google is embarking on a bold, experimental feature that positions the search engine as a cooperative platform for knowledge sharing. Under this initiative, users in the U.S. and India can contribute to augmenting search results by adding personal annotations to virtually any webpage. These user-generated notes envisioned to be both textual and visual, could become a repository of community wisdom and personal recommendations, akin to Reddit threads but embedded directly within Google. Practical applications could range from suggestions on enhancing a recipe to travel recommendations. While the thought of moderating such content is daunting, Google is confident in its system, which incorporates both automated evaluations and human review to ensure compliance with its Community Guidelines.

These guidelines, which apply to all notes and profiles, outline the forms of content and behavior deemed unacceptable, like hate speech and spam, ensuring a civil space for contribution. Initially, notes will be non-optional for webmasters, and all user notes will be browsable in a feed, with the most helpful being prominently featured. These contributions will be part of the open web, indexed, and potentially influential in Google's search algorithms over time.

Desktop users will also gain access to enhanced filtering capabilities. This feature, previously introduced on mobile, allows for the integration of perspectives from forums and social media, complete with details about the creators' reach and content popularity. Additionally, updates to Google's ranking will prioritize these firsthand perspectives, making them more readily available in search results.

These changes come as a response to widespread critiques concerning the diminished quality of Google Search. Leading publications have expressed concerns about an internet dominated by SEO-optimized content, compromising the integrity and utility of search results. Whether Google's innovative attempts to reinvigorate search by sourcing human insights and personal content will successfully address these issues is yet to be determined.

As the search landscape potentially evolves towards AI-powered models, Google treads cautiously with its own AI chatbot integrated into Search, currently a Google Labs experiment. Meanwhile, the aim is to refine the base search experience to meet modern preferences for personalized, opinionated, and well-curated content.