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Google’s top search result is Google (themarkup.org)
385 points by danso 17 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 304 comments



Many of them save me extra clicks which is convenient. Google translate, maps and search has no competitors that even come close in terms of quality. I will get mad when those products have better alternatives but it's not the case. Build better alternatives and I'm on board. In the end, Google is a business - I would promote my own shit on the first vertical as well. One thing that pisses me off is the AMP ordeal but, other than that, I extract value from Google.

I am on Google to find results to my questions - I want the quickest exit and that's what they provide. If they fail to do that they back down trust me, these guys watch "the numbers" carefully.


Build better alternatives and I'm on board. In the end, Google is a business - I would promote my own shit on the first vertical as well.

You: I wish people would build products that successfully compete with Google.

Also you: It's fine if Google do things that stop their competitors successfully competing with Google.

This is literally exactly the reason why anti-trust laws exist - to stop a company who are successful in one area (search, advertising) unfairly dominating other areas (maps, translation) by suppressing their competition. For all you know there might be a map provider that you'd prefer - but while Google leverage their advantage running the premier search engine to put themselves at the top of every geographic search you're never going to find out.


The word "Compete" here is misleading. It's rather: I wish people would build better products than Google's.

According to you, Google should send users to a strictly worse app, so that it can become better over time? And unless it requires a lot of user data to become a better app, I don't see why it needs traffic from Google to become a better product.

Once it is an arguably better product, then yes, Google should definitely link to it first.


Once it is an arguably better product, then yes, Google should definitely link to it first.

Google Search should list the websites that best match the user's search terms ordered by a fair Pagerank score that doesn't emphasise Google's own properties. That's it. Google shouldn't be making subjective decisions about "site quality" (objective factors like speed, mobile optimization, malware etc are OK..). If I search for "Sunderland"[1] I get 3 news stories about the local football team and the next 50% of the page is Google Maps...

[1] https://imgur.com/a/1YAc6hE


I generally agree with your motivation. But spam/fraud and even semi-legit SEO gaming have basically made ignoring the "subjective" infeasible. There needs to a be some sort of "semantic" filter that returns results not just based on PageRank/TFIDF information but also some modeling of likely intent behind the query.


> Google Search should list the websites that best match the user's search terms

Ok, but define "best match".

> ordered by a fair Pagerank score that doesn't emphasise Google's own properties

Even ignoring link farming (which already ruined a lot of the web the first time around), inbound links to content is a proxy for quality of content, not an actual measure of quality of content.

It's just offloading the subjective part of search quality to the wisdom of the crowd, which often does not work out.


I have the perfect formula. Just ignore how unrealistic it is.

We divide the knowledge and information into disciplines. We create awards in each discipline. If you accumulate enough awards you are offered the option to dedicate your life to the topic without exit strategy. (Quitting would cost 100 million) unless the topic is no longer of public interest.

You get: a house that you must live in, access to research facilities if (applicable), travel is pre-paid for if (applicable), a personal assistant who has to sign off on all of your expenses.

You yourself are not allowed to have cash or a bank account, no vacation and contact with friends and relatives is forbidden unless they can prove they have relevant expertise or are also in such committee.

Picture it, high priest of pokemon go. In charge of ordering search results and designing the portal widget.

No discrimination for artificial humans, we do full robotmancipation.


What about click through rate and time spent on site? Those are objective, Google probably has the data in many cases, and Google’s own products (like Maps) probably do the best on those metrics.


If I spent a lot of time on a site, does that mean I am enjoying the site and rewarding it with time, or having trouble finding information and need to use it for longer?

Data doesn't tell you everything.


I'm assuming when they see when a search click is the final click vs when the user comes back to click on something else instead. I'm assuming for most people, Maps/Translate widgets are their final destination.


I care about speed, mobile optimization, and malware. Generalizing from my observation of myself, I expect others do as well.


And spam. Don't forget that with just base pagerank, all you'd get today is spam.


With the first page of results being mostly Google or paid ads, spam is roughly what we have today, too.


I like Google's integrated approach. I don't see it as spam, which would be ads that I don't wish to see. I've tried other services, but prefer Google Maps, Google Flights, etc.


But if Google search didn't send me to Google maps when I was looking for maps then I would explicitly go to Google maps. In that case there would be no chance for any competitor to do better.


Your logic is faulty. You weren't going to go to a competitor from the search page anyway.


That's what I'm trying to say. When I search for "maps" I'm trying to go to Google maps. The same happens when I search for "translate".


Why would you want to go to goofle translate or google maps when you search for translate or google? Wouldn’t you want to go to the best service you could get?


His point is those are the best.


Maybe that isn't his point. A lot of people don't use UI optimally.

They "Go to google, type what they want, google gives it to them."

Sure, you could click on the 9 dots on the top right and select maps for google maps.

But is that always there on every device, on every web browser, whether signed in with google account or not?


Yes, but the counter argument is that they are only the best because no competitor can get adequate attention to make the investment worthwhile.

Apple has the only viable alternatives to those two, and the only way they are able to distribute them is because they control the home screen of iOS.


And how does one know that Google even has a maps service to go to? Google maps didn't start out great or even good (Its pretty good now). Google promotes their beta-level products over other mature products to the point the competition is starved of visitors, while Google iterates their own product. So now, after the fact, you can go "Well, there's no one else, I guess Google does the right thing in showing me Google maps as the first result".


> Google maps didn't start out great or even good

That is not my memory. Google maps used AJAX to let you pan around. It was fluid, and really nice. What I had been using up until then was MapQuest, where you needed to click an arrow to move around, with long delays.

Disclosure: I work for Google


Google Earth was originally developed at Intrinsic Graphics in the late 1990s. October 2004, Google acquired Keyhole. Google maps started February 8, 2005.

It would have been easy to offer kml links and "force" the users into Google Earth. Before it was tinkered into a steaming pile of shit Keyhole was a truly fantastic product, with a lovely community, arguably the greatest thing since web browsers (with picasa & hello as a close 3rd and 4th)

For a web based thing the ajax maps was quite nice but today I really hate using it. The data is great tho and you cant complaint about the price.


> It would have been easy to offer kml links and "force" the users into Google Earth.

How so?


It was such superior experience. If the user has it on his box the map link can simply point at the google earth client.

Take route planning for example. It use to be that you could fly the route in google earth. A line on a paper like map with a bunch of dots is useful for finding a shorter or more preferable route but after you've made up your mind flying over the road from A to B allows you to drive or cycle without any map.

If the application is installed the search results can include tours. (people made countless illustrated tours that kept breaking with each api update until there were no tours left)

Google could probably embed google earth into web pages if the will was there.

We will see where https://earth.google.com/web/ ends up. For now it loads as if booting an OS but its quite smooth after that.


It was a while ago, but I remember Google maps being far better than any other map service when it first launched.


The reason Google Maps was successful in its early days wasn't because of its quality, it was because it was free.

The other options were just as good, but often you had to pay for them. With Google, you could repeatedly refine the bad results until you found something useful, because there was zero additional cost involved.


Google Maps was revolutionary when it came out.

Maps had smooth, animated panning and zooming that updated the map in real time without reloading the page. MapQuest and the other major competitors at the time only allowed panning and zooming by clicking buttons on the side of the map, which scrolled a predefined number of steps and reloaded, at least initially, the entire page when you did so.

Google Maps was also less cluttered and used the browser's real estate much effectively. MapQuest was a small, cramped map by comparison.

Screenshots:

https://i2.wp.com/www.matthewhurst.com/wp-content/uploads/20...

https://www.versionmuseum.com/images/websites/google-maps-we...


What nonfree maps were you using before? I used MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps before Google Maps. Both were free.


Revisionist history. What mapping service was comparable the day google maps launched? MapQuest? lmao.


Multimap was quite good. I remember integrating it in to a few sites in the very early 2000s. It wasn't quite as dynamic as Google Maps but it definitely worked pretty well. It was eventually bought by Microsoft and became Bing Maps.


Actually yes - if you look at articles at the time, Mapquest was leading the antitrust charge against Google because the latter had JUST launched and yet was surfacing above Mapquest in rankings.

And when GMaps first started, it wasn’t the beast that it was today; sure it had some nifty UX improvements, but it was nothing close to competitors in the space at the time.


> unfairly dominating other areas

Out of curiosity, what exactly about Maps is unfair? They made money, they invested it in better mapping technology. You could say the same about Apple too, they bundled their Maps application with every iPhone sold which you couldn't even uninstall for a long time. And they had more money than Google too - yet their maps application was and still is garbage.

It just so happens Google Maps is the better product here and has nothing to do with anti-competitiveness. I was in China and I tried using both Apple and Google Maps (via VPN). And guess which one lead me to a wrong railway station?


> Apple too, they bundled their Maps application with every iPhone sold which you couldn't even uninstall for a long time.

And even now, having done so, clicking on an address to copy it will take you to a page telling you to reinstall maps to see it...


> They made money, they invested it in better mapping technology.

That’s the part that is illegal and anticompetitive: they didn’t make money from Maps to reinvest to create a better product. Rather, they invested revenue from other different markets for which they are exceedingly dominant, to invest and operate Maps at a loss (I.e. free and no revenue sources.)

>Apple

Apple did not have anywhere near dominant market share of devices when Maps came out. Antitrust cases hinge on that point. This is also why Bing can get away with many of the same tactics that Google uses : because Bing has very low market share of search compared to Google.


> Google translate, maps and search has no competitors that even come close in terms of quality.

This is patently false, and probably a reflection of the Google bubble you live in.

DeepL is pretty objectively superior to Google, as evaluated by journalists who natively speak the languages it translates in the articles linked on their website. You can find plenty of in depth reviews online, and every one I've read has admitted that it's at absolute worst as bad as Google Translate. Edit: https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/29/deepl-schools-other-online...

Maps is a different story, but there are certainly better options for certain specific needs. I'd like to see the noise-pollution based routing service on HN's frontpage yesterday remade with Google Maps.

Search is somewhat subjective, but I haven't used Google Search in several years and I don't consider an engine that requires me to scroll past page after page of ads — including what amount to ads for services like Google's inferior flight service, that won't necessarily be easily removed by an "out of the box" ad blocker — high quality.

And those are the services you picked. The article has a great little analysis of Google Flights and why "It did not crack the top 10 of Frommer’s 2020 ranking of airfare search engines, for instance" and why the FTC's leaked documents called it out for providing less options. (Spoiler: Up to 80% more expensive flights, when it found flights at all).


Google's flight service is not a booking service. It's flight search. It just redirects you to the airline in question.

Personally I love it. It's so much faster than all the competitors. Further it not covered in ads. I just went to SkyScanner and there's an ad for fried chicken. Seriously WTF!


Edited to remove “booking”. But as "“a partnership with Google is required” to appear in Google Flights", (and it hides the best flights, likely because of lack of such a “partnership”), I would consider the entire service an infomercial-like advertisement.


Google Flights' list of booking options is much more reliable and trustworthy than the sketchy OTAs that offer slightly discounted flights and then conveniently disappear with your money if you ever need customer support, or worse, levy bullshit fees to do things that would otherwise be free if you booked through official channels.

If you want to screw yourself over for $20 savings, use another flight search engine. I'm quite happy with Google Flights myself and don't need it ruined.


It provides a better search than, say, united's search. Especially if you are looking for partner-flights or more interesting layover-cities. But it also doesn't include southwest flights (most aggregators don't) which often have the best price for my home airport on short-hauls.


I've found plenty of situations where OSM has better data than Google Maps.


Absolutely, eg. the woods near my house have trails mapped out in OSM that don't exist on Google Maps.


I also find Google's colour scheme rather obnoxious when I want to use the map to actually orient myself (instead of it being merely a convenient geographical background for displaying POIs and route planning) – forests aren't displayed at all once you start zooming in and the distinction between built-up areas and open space (which isn't great to start with) gets more and more indistinct as well.


Anyone remember the 90s-era Windows rants about how it was simply objectively better at <x>, as demonstrated by a lack of competition?

Good times.


It had competition from Apple and IBM. But look Windows domination was ended by Android and Apple IOS. Same happen with Explorer which was killed by ooensource products like Firefox and later Chrome


The death of IE was helped greatly by antitrust action by the EU.

If you think MSFT wouldn’t have snuffed out Firefox and Chrome the moment they got a chance you’re greatly mistaken.


How would they have ‘snuffed out’ chrome?

Chrome performed better than any other browser at the time it came out, and was advertised in the most prominent place in the world.

How would MS have stopped it?


To be fair, DeepL doesn't support all the languages Google supports.


True (edit: and not my downvote), and Google Translate doesn't support all the languages Microsoft Translate supports: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23977310. But my point was that not only is “Google translate … has no competitors that even come close in terms of quality” absolutely false, but that Google Translate is not even way too close to as good as its competitors, and DeepL is a service that I can personally vouch for, and there's even broad consensus that it's at worst as bad as GT.


Actually, on text translations, DeepL nowadays outclasses Google Translate IMHO. The only downside is that they don't appear to offer some kind of transparent website translate feature ("put a URL in and it translates the entire site, with layout kept intact"), at least not for free. But if I happen to have a paragraph or so in some foreign language and want that translated to some language I can understand, DeepL has become my first stop due to its consistently higher result quality.


I would be prepared to switch over completely for the languages they support if DeepL didn't insert their advertisement at the bottom of some results (I've had this accidentally included in an email before), and if they had a mobile app with a text selection action on Android to highlight text and see a popup with the translation. As it is, I use it most of the time but still rely on Google Translate being more accessible. Obviously DeepL is newer, so these limitations are understandable.


> if they had a mobile app with a text selection action on Android to highlight text and see a popup with the translation

I've had the same frustration, so I've written a simple script/app with Tasker (and AutoShare plugin) to select text and translate from DE -> EN. I use it quite frequently to learn German.


One weird quirk of DeepL is that when you become a $5/mo subscriber, you can't use their free /translator page while logged in.


Same here, I've been consistently surprised at how much better (and more natural/accurate) deepl is than google at translating, especially for sentences and paragraphs.


I love the feature that allows changing words with an alternative, which triggers a new translation with the new context.


I agree DeepL is often as good or better. (I will sometimes try both and compare. Usually I prefer about half from each, but both are fine on their own.) But DeepL doesn't support nearly as as many languages. Google Translate supports, to pick a few, Basque, Gujarati, Kazakh, Igbo and Thai. Some of those don't have a huge number of speakers, but they also have Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian and Swahili, all in the top 20 by number of speakers.

Yes, I know some of these are done through a intermediary (often English, but not always). So if you translate Ukrainian → Catalan it probably really does Ukrainian → Russian → Spanish → Catalan. But it can still be helpful to have the options.


Is there any way to find out what the translation path is that GTranslate takes?

Background: I usually find I get better results when I translate from English to a random language X instead of from Y to X -- which is probably because it actually does Y -> English -> X. But I know more languages than Y and English, so it might be helpful to know what the "best" intermediary is, so to speak.


Not that I know of, except by trying to find mistakes like this:

https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=47635

> Google translates the Japanese word "migaku 磨く" (to polish, to brush) to the French word "polonais" (Polish, as in "of Poland").

Meaning Japanese to French must go through English and get confused by Polish/polish.


Anecdote disclaimer.

Learning Spanish right now so I'm excited to learn about this better translator. The very first word I tested was "por favor".

DeepL detected it as English and translated it into Spanish to give "por favor" == "por favor".

Same for "una mas". To be fair, it worked once I properly accented the "a".

I'll be using this for longer sentences instead.


> Google translate, maps and search has no competitors that even come close in terms of quality.

There certainly did used to be competition to Google Translate but Google crushed them by promoting their own services (which came later)[1].

I often see the argument made that these monopolies just happen to have the best software but often those arguments miss how those monopolies had already killed the competition and were now suffocating the market so new competition struggles to rise. This was a common tactic by Microsoft in the 90s too, so it's by no means unique to Google.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babel_Fish_(website)


Exactly. We can see that in the future for the examples from the article too.

When Google started promoting Google Flights and Hotels over other sites, they did not offer close to the best information. In fact, as the article claims, they still don’t. Yet despite that competitors are losing traffic and going out of business (eg. Hipmunk).

It’s not hard to see where this leads over time. The competitors struggle to stay in business or even get the traffic needed to improve their products while Google gets to keep investing and iterating. Maybe in 5-10 years they’ll have a product better than the existing ones, but they’ll also have driven most competitors to obscurity.


not my experience. The experience at Google Fllghts is 100x better than any other flight search service. It's like the difference between Google Maps when it shipped and Mapquest. Mapquest was instantly a joke with its server side rendered pages. Google Flights is fast. Every other site is slow.


If you read the article they highlight the fact that they omit routes and prices at times that can be found on IATA.

For me, speed is one factor of product quality, but result integrity is the thing that I care the most about.


> There certainly did used to be competition to Google Translate but Google crushed them by promoting their own services (which came later)[1].

Yahoo was the search engine that crushed altavista, then ultimately bought babelfish and let it rot, all several years before google translate came out.


> Yahoo was the search engine that crushed altavista

If you mean “bought Altavista and then squandered it”, then sure, but they definitely never crushed Altavista from my POV.


The thing is, increasingly I'm catching it returning wrong answers. A few days I was looking up the approximate weight of a cup of flour to do a recipe conversion, and the "helpful answer" was pulled from some random site and was about 15% off-base compared to the median from a handful of other sites, including from flour companies.

I've observed similar bad results when looking up information about medications… I feel bad for those acting on that information.

Just like ads, I've learned to tune out that top part of the search result page. Honestly, the increasing noise feels a lot like Yahoo! in 2001.


Well, one cup (volume) of flour can vary pretty widely in weight (108-138g in my notebook). Bleached, whole, Rye, AP, etc and even same type across brands. A variance of 15% is not too odd from my baking experience.


Yeah that's flour's perennial problem, and 15% is enough to really throw a bake off. Avoid any baking recipe that doesn't have a nice round number for grams of flour, and even then be suspicious. (baker's percents are always welcome though!)


A professional baker who's business I spent some time getting to know would test bake a standard loaf from every batch of flour purchased. Their recipe would get micro adjustment depending on results.

Not as necessary for home baked 1kg loafs.


The helpful answer should mention that.


i run into this so often it might as well be called misinformation. it will surface parts of 2 different sentances which completely changes the meaning or context, or removes important nuance.


I mainly use DDG, but when I look at a google page, it is just gross. We've gone well beyond contempt for the consumer, deep in to plain-old tacky.


I am the product.

I understand this with google and accept it. They can extract whatever information they want in exchange for decent results when I search whether it comes from them or not.

I get gmail, a phone os, a browser, an os, remote desktop and more for free from them. I pay for youtube premium.

The value I get from google is worth it. Everything they provide is good enough and when I want a third party site or information I can get it.

As a consumer, Google offers a great deal.

There are two pain points with google. The first is support, but what can you do when it is free. The second is the rollout of new products and then abandoning them.

I do not run a business that is affected by Google's decisions, though. I understand if you are a company competing in an area google participates it is unfair.


I understand this with google and accept it. They can extract whatever information they want in exchange for decent results when I search whether it comes from them or not. I get gmail, a phone os, a browser, an os, remote desktop and more for free from them. I pay for youtube premium.

I don't want to cheapen the horror of spousal abuse, but your statements sound exactly like the kind of excuses that a victim of domestic violence makes.

"He only does that when he's drinking." "Google only tracks me when I'm breathing."

I don't think you even realize how you've been trained into a mindset like some kind of circus animal.


The bitch is when you're forced to use their products whether you like it or not. Case in point recaptcha. Also many users are not in the least aware of the trade going on, and the magnitude and invasiveness of the surveillance.


Google does not force companies to implement ReCaptcha on their own Web properties.


Many government websites use reCAPTCHA. I do not have any choice in using it. If I were to block Google to avoid tracking, I could not function in society.


I had to use a reCAPTCHA on a government web site last week, and Google's stupid AI refused to accept that a picture of a wheelchair is not a bicycle. They both have spokes, so I must be a bot.

Note to self: Never get in a vehicle steered by Google AI.


It gets even funnier for non-english speakers. ReCaptcha gets translated to your language, and sometimes it doesn't make sense.

For instance, let's say that the thing makes you mark images of "toes". If you get the captcha in spanish, it will say imagenes de "dedos".

The funny part is that "dedo" in spanish means both "finger" and "toe". The only way you can distinguish is by saying "dedo de la mano" or "dedo del pie" (which would literally translate to "finger of the hand" or "finger of the foot").

Hence, you click on both images containing "toes" and "fingers", and the freaking thing decides you must be a bot. If you can speak english you'll figure out eventually, but if you only speak spanish you are screwed.


Funnily enough, Google translate does translate "toe" to "dedo del pie" and "finger" to "dedo".

Which makes me wonder what the same captcha would say in French. In French, "doigt", while technically for both toes and fingers, is usually unambiguously "finger", and "toes" is "doigts de pied".

So if the captcha would pull the same joke in French, telling to flag "doigts", I, as a French, would only pick fingers and not toes at all.


The gov.uk guys have figured out this problem. As usual, the US NIH syndrome gets in the way. Give the UK guys a call, 18F. Learn how to do this right.


Again, Google is not forcing them to use ReCAPTCHA anywhere. You seem to have an issue with that program, so why are you taking it out on Google instead of on your government?


Put *.google.com in an adblocker and see how many sites break. There is no way to avoid them completely.


>“We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible,” co-founder Larry Page said in 2004.

The article presents you as some sort of "gotcha" quote demonstrating how Google overturned a core value or something. Yes, Google search results have changed, but what it is now is very much in the spirit of that original value. I searched for something. Google gave me the answer directly. Boom, I'm done. Get in, get the answer fast, get out. I can go back to my life.


And who gives a crap about the livelihoods of the sources Google pulled that info from and now will never see your traffic.

You think Google did all the original research and information creation to populate their answers?

And since when do they provide decent attribution and link-throughs to the sources they used, so you can check their graph? Or do you really trust Google's automation of everything to generate accurate results every time?


It’s the same thing as with ads and ad blocking, etc: your business model is not my problem.


Well, let's just hope your business model doesn't get co-opted by a giant company one day. That would be horrible.


If it does, my business dies. That's life. My problem to solve.


There are some great translation tools besides Google translate. I find Microsoft translate sometimes outperforms Google translate for certain languages. For example Google doesn't even have Cantonese. And there are some translation apps coming out of China that are also really awesome. I can't speak for other languages. I just wanted to point out that Google putting themselves first in the results is not always an indicator that it is the best results.


> Many of them save me extra clicks which is convenient.

I think the point is that some are convenient, others aren’t, but they all have prominent positioning. Google is not the best flight search service, yet it’s on top.

As you say, it wouldn’t matter if Google was the best at everything all the time. The issue is that of course it isn’t, and will never be.


Out of curiosity which flight search is better than flights.google?


TFA links to this comprehensive review of airfare search websites, the top ten of which all outperform Google Flights. You may not have even heard of their top picks like Skiplagged, Momondo, and Skyscanner.

https://www.frommers.com/slideshows/848046-the-10-best-and-w...


Momondo, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, Expedia.


Those are all scammy sights covered in ads and tracking by 30-60 ad companies. I prefer to be tracked by just one and not served ads


Use an adblocker _and_ visits sites that are more likely to show you a full selection of flight info and the actual lowest fares?


It’s a valid point, but also feels like Stockholm Syndrome in a way.

Why not accept our abuser, if they protect us from everyone else also trying to abuse us ?


How is any of those better than Google Flights?


This is arguably significantly better (if you know how to use it that is) than flights.google, but Google bought them a few years ago:

https://matrix.itasoftware.com/


[flagged]


??? I'm asking a genuine question, what sort of comment is that?

I have used expedia and kayak and kiwi in the past, I've never got a better quote than google flights. I've also never got a better quote from the airline directly than via google flights. Hence my (obviously very stupid) question...


"I will get mad when those products have better alternatives but it's not the case. Build better alternatives and I'm on board."

How will you find out about the better alternatives? Are you certain there aren't good alternatives to translate, maps, flights, shopping etc? For any language? I know for a fact that google translate is bad for some ideographic languages and as a result there are competing services that companies have started to use instead (DeepL, etc).

If the competition is better, how will you know? Are you going to dedicate time to hunting down alternatives and testing them out when the Google product is the only thing on screen and it works?


I think you're overselling your point here. if I search "maps" in google, the google product is the first hit, but several major alternatives are right under it on the first page of results. FWIW, DeepL is also on the first page for "translate".

I don't actually want to discover new products by finding their homepages in my search results. when I am looking for something new, I want to read a review in a publication I trust or at least a discussion among real humans in a forum.


If you search for "route to <city>" on Google, you get a Google Maps embed with directions above search results from services like mapquest. That's what I'm referring to. (Do many people find mapping services by searching that way now? I don't know.)


I am constantly trying new things. I just ditched duckduck go for the third time. I'm using firefox since 2 months. I am aware of alternatives. I WANT to ditch Google too but I get value from it atm that I cannot find elsewhere.


How would you bootstrap such a company?

The solution as I see it is to forcefully break-up Google, such that these services can have their run as independent companies (Maps, flight search, product price comparison, etc.). This has been done before with big companies (e.g. break of Bell Systems into 7 companies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakup_of_the_Bell_System)


The way Google: ship it and make it work really, really well.

The product was so good that people noticed. They were able to take this and leverage this into being search for a really large property, like

Back in the 90s there were lots of search engines. People didn't pick Google because it was hard to switch, they converged on Google because the product was that good - there was Infoseek, HotBot, AskJeeves, Alta Vista, Lycos, Yahoo, Excite ... the list goes on.

It's a theoretical problem to have a significantly better search engine and not find users for it.


I'd argue that Google was able to win specifically because they had so much competition. They weren't fighting against one or two massive entrenched competitors in an established space. Search was still pretty new at that point and Google's approach to it was innovative.

Google also had lots of space to improve on its competition when it came to metrics like latency, which paid off. Nobody really has the option to beat them on latency now. That's not really Unfair in any fashion but it is an example of how it would be much harder to dethrone the ruling search engine in 2020.


> People didn't pick Google because it was hard to switch, they converged on Google because the product was that good

That's not how I remember things from that time. I started to use Google, because it was faster than dogpile and the other oddly named search engines.

It wasn't a quality reason. There was the expectation that a search for information would take longer than a single click, so a little digging wasn't an issue.


My experience was that the quality of the search results were much better.


I experienced that as well, but the reason we used Google at that time was the speed that was sorely lacking is all other offeri we used.


Most of those independent companies wouldn't have a good revenue stream no? I really doubt Google Maps is sustainable simply by selling API access.

It and especially the more niche google products seem to be provided as a value add to their other services (i.e search in this case).


Awww, you mean parts of the monolith would have to compete on merit with all the other companies that are having to compete on merit?

What a terrible shame...


It will be a terrible shame when I no longer get real-time traffic on the small streets, yes.

I use OSM multiple times per week, but I still start GMaps anytime I need to drive somewhere.


Google Maps is essentially TripAdvisor with better search, but fewer reviews. In addition, Google Maps is probably the most used GPS routing software these days.

They would do fine standalone, either following a path like TripAdvisor or Garmin or both.


And what good came out of the remains of Bell Systems afterwards?


DDG has an IRC channel on Freenode, I went one day asking about result quality when searching for Python stuff because it used to send me on documentation pages for old versions.

Something happened, because a few weeks later it appeared that DDG started getting me results for the current version of Python.

You might want to try to reach out to DDG if you have some improvement suggestions.


I just use both DDG and Google if needed via !G. That way i get more results from different sources.


Someone will mention better alternatives here, after all I've been hearing about how ddg blows Google out of the water a couple times every week here for years.


Ddg is acceptable but it doesn’t blow Google out of the water at all.

It’s miles ahead for me because of tracking etc, but I can’t see how anyone could think the actual search results are better


Every time in the last couple of years that DDG hasn't had a decent result, and I've used '!g' to see what else might come up, I've been very disappointed... usually a grab bag of crap sites with barely any relevance to my original search direction. We probably have very different searches.


As DDG was mentioned, feel free to come check out Runnaroo.

Similar to Startpage, the base for organic web results is Google, but it also includes additional vertical sources layered in to provide greater relevance.

It also respects literal searches with quotation marks, which is a common gripe on HN.

Still very new, but improving and growing rapidly.

Example search for React.js - https://www.runnaroo.com/search?term=react.js

Existing monetization comes from the new Web Monetization API [0] standard (through Coil members) and as part of the Brave publisher program.

[0] https://webmonetization.org/


Thanks for the heads up. I did some quick tests and it’s much better than DDG and 2020 Google, at least for my use case.


I may be an outlier but I haven't had a good experience with DDG for a while.

I don't really feel like I would recommend it.


What about translation tools or maps. Hear of any good ones on here?


Generally speaking, HN posters are not the people who are going to be harmed by anti-competitive behavior or Google filling the first screen of results with their own products. It's ordinary people who use the web.

You could probably argue that ordinary people don't care about quality and they're best served by using the vertically-integrated Google product, though...


It's mostly been word of mouth for me - Japanese friends telling me DeepL is way better for Japanese, people on HN complaining about Google Chrome performance vs Firefox.

And competitors are coming pretty close to other Google stuff, Apple Maps is actually getting pretty good for me right now but mainly lacks the metadata about things like restaurant menus + the flexibility of routing like cheapest train fares or searching by last train and what not that Google has - honestly seems like low hanging fruit. Nobody gets close on search yet though, I've tried and failed to stick with DDG many times now.


How would a better alternative surface?


Here, on ProductHunt and any other way. How did Firefox re-invent itself? It attacked the very thing that Google could not provide: privacy. How is DDG on such a good trend lately? It requires a lot of effort I agree but google also put a lot of effort into their own products.


Google puts in some effort, but if it doesn't work they just purloin others’ products. See the Yelp story in the leaked FTC documents the article linked: http://graphics.wsj.com/google-ftc-report/


DeepL is better than google translate.


Just tested and tried translating English to romanian (my language) - doesn't exist :)


What I gather from this is DeepL has far fewer inaccurate translations from English to Romanian.


My translation service from /dev/null is even better than these two services. Not a single false translation. Guaranteed!


> Google translate, maps and search has no competitors that even come close in terms of quality. I will get mad when those products have better alternatives but it's not the case.

Just think about it: where do you think the money to fund development of maps, translation etc comes from? Nobody pays a dime to use these services, so they clearly aren't self-sustaining.

Now think about your own income. Imagine google comes up with some way to provide the same skillset you offer by pouring ad money into researching some hypothetical singularity AI or whatever, and then offering that to your employers for free (in exchange for ad placement in your company's end product), causing you to lose not only your job, but your ability to get any related jobs anywhere.

That's obviously an extreme and highly hypothetical scenario, but it illustrates what anti-trust laws are supposed to stop.


> Many of them save me extra clicks which is convenient. Google translate, maps and search has no competitors that even come close in terms of quality. … Build better alternatives and I'm on board.

This is why they don't have better competitors. To compete with Google, you have to, out of the gate, and with them as mediators, match or exceed on every aspect of their experience a company that, from the perspective of just about any competitor out there, has just about unlimited resources.

If you do start to make it and gain some traction—again, necessarily often through Google's own services—it is well within Google's power to focus on you specifically, say, by snooping on your data on an Android phone, and make sure to drive you out of the market.


Deepl crushes Google Translate in quality. Depending upon your needs (bike, anyone? -> https://cycle.travel - minimal gas consumption? try https://maps.openrouteservice.org/ ) there are better alternatives to Google Maps. DuckDuckGo is much less annoying than Google and for a few years arguably as good.


You write this like its a fact but it's just your opinion. Deepl.com for example is on par and imho even better than Google Translate for some languages.


When a better one comes along ... you'll never know.


I agree. The reason I still use google is most of the times I don't have to open another website to get my answers. I don't have to load the slow javascript heavy sites and saves me time. Google is not just links to websites but also serves information directly. Obviously if I need better understanding and deep knowledge I open the links, but I don't need that often.


This is a very typical response on HN in response to articles/blog posts about issues raised by the Google business.

When these sort of comments rise to the top of HN threads, I am at a loss how to interpret the meaning.

1. Does it mean the commenter and HN voters do not care about the issue (e.g., anti-competitive behaviour)?

or

2. Does it mean they normally would care about anti-competitive behaviour but because they "like" this particular company they do not care?

If the commenter means #2, then it seems like there are some assumptions being made. For example, one assumption might be that if Google is held accountable for anti-competitive behaviour then it will affect the commenter's "web user experience".

However, I cannot see how to arrive at that conclusion. In fact, the commenter states "Build better alternatives and I'm on board."

What if anti-competitive behaviour was an impediment to others seeking to "[b]uild better alternatives"? If holding Google to account for anti-competitive behaviour would remove such impediments, then it seems that the commenter is more likely to mean #1.

The commenter appears to desire the most convenient and quick "service" he/she can get, and is impartial to who provides it. He/she acknowledges that others could build better alternatives to Google. If holding Google accountable for its conduct helps others build better alternatives, this would meet the commenter's needs.

Without further clarification from the commenter, I am going to assume that #1 better represents his/her meaning.


> Google translate, maps and search has no competitors that even come close in terms of quality.

At least for Translate I can wholeheartedly recommend DeepL as competitor.

Does it lack languages? Sure, but the quality of translations seem subjectively better than that of Google Translate - especially for longer texts.


Then you should get mad, because there are better alternatives to google translate (deepl).


> search

There was a recent HN post about the declining quality of Google search in that most search results seem to be more and more leading to SEO spam. Is your experience with Google Search different?


Deepl works better than translate. Yandex and 2Gis works better than Google maps for my region. Google search is superb, can't really argue with that.


It depends on the country.

Naver has super detailed maps of Korea.

Yandex Street View image quality is great in Russia.


Edge Chromium has Microsoft Translate which does a pretty good job as well


Data based algorithms can only get better when you feed them data. Google makes sure that the data only goes to their own algorithms. Its a chicken and egg situation IMHO.


Some would say maybe the little startups should have a chance.


Then they have to start by building a better product. Any suggestions for alternative services that outperform Google’s?


> Any suggestions for alternative services that outperform Google’s?

Yes. Which one? This page seems full of people recommending DeepL, which is one I can personally recommend for Spanish, and others can swear by for any of the languages it supports. OpenStreetMap is great for more detailed and more frequently updated map data. The article shows how pathetic multiple competitors make Google Flights look https://themarkup.org/google-the-giant/2020/07/28/google-sea... (and it seems the industry rate 10+ other services above it https://www.frommers.com/slideshows/848046-the-10-best-and-w...). DuckDuckGo's search results are as good for me (not everyone), and it invented the instant answer (IIRC), has 2 click dark mode, bangs and other features, and is a good place to find more alternatives.


[flagged]


> Fuck little startups, most of them hawk bullshit and don't get interesting until they grow into big companies.

Surely you don't mean that it's the act of growing into a big company that makes them interesting, but rather that only the interesting ones make it to big companies. (I don't think I necessarily agree with that—I'd think amount of capital is a far bigger determinant—and I would notice that the converse is far from true.) Well, there's nothing wrong with sitting back and letting the market make the decision—but if someone's not there trying the little companies before they get big, then that's a market decision in its own right.

> A startup won't compete well with Google for very long and using one instead of Google feels too much like pandering to a novelty.

Or, perhaps, taking a stance on a matter of principle, about privacy, or about Google's monopoly powers, or, well, pick your poison.


> A trending search in our data for “myocardial infarction” shows how Google has piled up its products at the top. It returned:

- Google’s dictionary definition.

- A “people also ask” box that expanded to answer related questions without leaving the search results page.

- A “knowledge panel,” which is an abridged encyclopedia entry with various links.

- And a “related conditions” carousel leading to various new Google searches for other diseases.

I don't know, I'm conflicted on examples like this. I see the point the article is going for, but I think it's better exemplified by the fact that there's a lot of advertising space taken up at the premium, top of the page on search results.

This example is not Google advertising itself so much as Google changing the features of the search engine itself. It's not emphasizing its own search results over "organic" search results, it's deemphasizing search results altogether in favor of quick, curated answers. Most of the time I can quickly tell what the "organic" source of the direct answer is.

I like that. Is there a way we could get quick curated answers like this without deemphasizing search results? Is that something most people would actually want? I feel a better point of contention is the number of ads, which I care more about.


You like it in the myopic sense of the word. In the way you like a big cake that sits in front of you, even if eating that cake is going to be bad for your health.

Google's monopolistic business practices are the same: they are convenient in the short-term for you, but they are destroying healthy industries. Over time the result won't be something you like.


> Google's monopolistic business practices are the same: they are convenient in the short-term for you, but they are destroying healthy industries. Over time the result won't be something you like.

Amazon—which genuinely used to be a great and reliable shopping experience, and made a bunch of changes that looked user focussed—is a great example of this.


The definition of "search" or what it means to type something into the google search input field has changed over time, and that's probably the root of this.

It used to mean "show me web pages related to this input string", and some of those search results were sponsored (ads). Now it's interpreted more as "inform me about this input string" or "please help me with this", like a Siri or Google Assistant (though not necessarily in natural language).

When you view it as a "please assist me" query it makes sense to introduce things like answerboxes, related queries, embedded images or translations, etc. But that is VERY MUCH not "search" anymore.

It's quite possible that most people using a search engine actually want an Assistant, so google's new behavior is ideal for them. But where do you go when you actually want a search engine? You see people complain that over time Google has become worse as a search engine - using it to search for programming topics is definitely worse than it used to be, and its search results in general are often full of astroturfed pinterest or stackoverflow pages.


What is "search" and "search engine"? Are these words with well defined legal meaning (as you seem to use them like that)?

To you, a software person, search might be to look up and compare a string with a pile of other strings. To non-sw people, it is to look for the correct (abstract or concrete) thing/answer. Why should your definition win?


Why does it have to be only one winner?


> This example is not Google advertising itself so much as Google changing the features of the search engine itself.

What it is an example of in my view is Google increasingly attemnpting to keep you on its site by scraping the information from other sites and displaying it.

Originally Google scraped the sites solely to build a better search index.


"Is there a way we could get quick curated answers like this without deemphasizing search results?"

Yes, here is an example of how it could work: https://www.runnaroo.com/search?term=myocardial+infarction

Disclaimer, I made this website.


But this website also deemphasizes search results in favor of curated answers, just like Google.


"But this website also deemphasizes search results in favor of curated answers, just like Google."

That is not correct. On desktop, organic search results take up the middle 60% of the screen with nothing above them. The curated results are in the sidebar.


I was viewing it on mobile, where it's still very deemphasized.

Edit: To be fair, you're right that on desktop Google could show curated content without pushing search results off the page. It's a lot harder to do on mobile, but I think it's still possible (after all people have pretty big screens on their phones these days).


When I run the search on mobile I see six screens of information scraped from Wikipedia and NIH before it starts showing organic links.

This is good user experience, but it's the same "problem" that the original article is objecting to.


"When I run the search on mobile I see six screens of information scraped from Wikipedia and NIH before it starts showing organic links."

That is a fair criticism for mobile where the sidebar collapses to the top. On desktop, organic results take up the majority of the screen and the curated results are shown only in the sidebar.

With limited screen space on mobile it is difficult to see multiple sections of results at the same time. The only change I could think of would be to adjust the CSS so that the sidebar collapses bellow the organic results.


I like it the way it is!


IMHO a ““related conditions” carousel leading to various new Google searches for other diseases” is an ad for a Google Search with more ads.

But on “a way we could get quick curated answers like this without deemphasizing search results”, one way to start would be to offer some instant answers as tabs next to the ones for images, news, videos etc., like the “Meanings” and “Definitions¨ tabs here https://duckduckgo.com/?q=boogie, some down among the organic results like the videos here https://duckduckgo.com/?q=how+to+exit+vim, and on wide screens, some as side bars like the SO one at that last link.


Maybe Google needs to take the final step in this evolution.

Let's have Google show nothing but quick answers, nothing but their own info boxes etc.

No search results, nothing external.

That way, anyone looking for any other results HAS to leave Google in order to find anything.

And Google can pander to the percentage of people who honestly don't know or care that there's a web.

Are there enough of us who would avoid Google if we knew 100% that we would never see a reference to anywhere outside of their own properties?


Their info boxes are all scraped from other sites, would they still be able to legally scrape sites and display them like that without giving any links to actually follow?


the data that google shows from websites is provided by websites as structured markup, websites started providing this with the expectation that it would provide better ranking. Nowadays, however, google could probably just render the same thing thorugh nlp without any additional hints from the sourced pages



Not all of it is structured. I've seen numerous examples where the structure is inferred from HTML markup, i.e. not so structured.

I get your point about structured data laying it out on a plate, so to speak.


Makes sense to me. Google Flights is amazing, Google Stocks is better than my broker (and way easier/faster), Translate doesn't even have a decent competitor, and Restaurants isn't perfect but just makes it easier to get to Google Maps.

As a consumer, this is great.

As a small business owner, I'm not very concerned about Google usurping pieces of my site into a widget. If the entirety of a business/site can be replaced with a free single-action widget, it's probably better for the consumer to do so.

If I were a big business (Expedia, Yelp, etc) affected by this, I would be more concerned about improving my product than a competitor simply copying functionality.


Competitors have a hard time getting off the ground because the dominant player is promoting its own products. Classic monopoly. Competition won't be good if nobody uses them.

Google maps might be a good example, MapQuest and Terraserver used to be better for navigation and satellite photos. Did they fail because of business reasons or self promotion? Hard to know, but Google pulled the same shit as MS got antitrust for. Bundling their own maps app pre-installed on their dominant mobile OS


> ...promoting its own products. Classic monopoly

How is promoting equivalent to classic monopoly? They are not removing competitors from search results. They are ranking based on relevance and apparently users are happy with their own widgets coming up on top.


they're promoting their own products when they have over 80% of search eyeballs

Deepl is better than Google translate for the few languages it supports.


That might be true but bear in mind that Deepl supports 11 languages while Google Translate supports 108.


Generally, I like the 'rich snippets' feature, but I think they've gotten worse.

For example here's a reddit post I made from 6 years ago showcasing a search for 'mac shortcut screenshot' https://www.reddit.com/r/google/comments/1ou4i0/a_search_for...

It's extremely clear, and results in minimal cognitive effort in parsing the result.

Here's the result now: https://i.imgur.com/A726Dhw.png

There's so much more cruft:

- 4x low resolution screenshots which I initially thought were related to ads

- An extra URL

- Multi-step instructions

- Lots of extra words

- Bold formatting has been applied inconsistently

Seeing the text: "Command + Shift + 3" in big bold letters was great, but it's now changed into something else.


I can think of two reasons that they might think the new version is better:

- The new snippet might be more useful to a majority of the people searching. It shows you the keys on the keyboard, it explains how to input it instead of relying on knowing the shortened notation, and it tells you where the screenshot will go. Since I don't use a mac myself, I feel like I've learned more from the latter than from the former.

- As you can see in the other reply to this comment, the new info box can pull info from any page with a numbered list of instructions. I don't know how the earlier info was extracted, but if you're going to pull out instructions like this for more queries about more complicated tasks, then it's better to be consistent, even if it could be expressed in a single bullet point.

I also find it funny that the source link is far more prominent in the newer rich snippet, even though a lot of people in this thread are saying they've made it harder to find.


Turns out Google has been doing this for my own site on certain pages. If I search for:

devtools capture element screenshot

It has listed the exact instructions on the search results page: https://i.imgur.com/NTdDjZY.png

Can I get an outsider perspective, are those 4 list items shown in the rich snippet too many? Is it too wordy? I'm wondering if a single item which said:

Search for screenshot in the Command Menu (Cmd + Shift + P)

Would be better?


I think it's fine. I'm not a webdev but I could follow your current instructions easily. I would definitely consider your instructions a good result if I was looking for the answer.

Although I prefer the second (wordier) example in OPs case anyway.


Falls within the purview of their job of being an information-search tool I’d say.

There are times when I want a specific piece of information as quickly as possible and with as few clicks as possible, and other times I’m doing more exploratory searches, it seems google lets me do both pretty well.


Google doesn't bother showing the user results for his/her actual search terms anymore, and stuffs most of the page with AMP links and paid results... but it's not them, it's you.

But if Google AI were really as bad at replacing simple grep they wouldn't be popular, etc etc.


Ye. It is really annoying that verbatim querries still are not quite verbatim. I get a feeling Google search index is just really an aggregate of a couple of 1000s big sites.


I think the issue is that Google did not launch as an "information-search tool". It slowly transitioned into one in line with advertising becoming its business model. Weirdly we are back where we started and I find the portal analogy actually very apt. Yes the technology has improved, but the Google of today is much closer to 2000 Yahoo![1] than 2000 Google[2] - trying to curate and own as much of the internet browsing experience as possible.

Taken to the extreme, Google would be very happy to keep a copy of every website and only let you browse the internet on its terms in its walled garden. We're already heading there with AMP. Do we want to sacrifice a couple of seconds of our time for that?

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20000229042533/http://search.yah...

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20130122200020/http://www.google...


I don't recall Google ever promising to be a "pure" web search engine, just indexing all the pages.

Quite the opposite, they said the goal was to organize and present information. The goal has always been the most relevant information given the query. Early on, that pretty much always meant a web page. More and more, they already know the answer and can present it with a better UX for the user.

Why should they be required to be a "pure" index of web pages?


Similarly to Amazon replacing popular products with their own, Google is doing the same with search results.


I'm not sure it's really the same. Someone asks Google "how far is it from Portland to Austin", and before they got 10 blue links, and now they get a number. That's not the same as "amazon, send me some Coke" and them sending Amazon brand cola drink.


When I worked at Bing almost 20 years ago, the #1 search term was "Google". So maybe this is reasonable :)

(#2 was "Gogle")


Bing was launched in 2009. Where were you working in the year 2000?


I was at Microsoft, in MSN Search (which was later re-branded Bing). This was 2003.


The MSN brand had some good stuff. MSN messenger, the MSN browser (I loved it). Great work by that team.


poor guy worked for Bing, it probably felt like decades.


I wonder that the numbers look like now. I could see someone searching "MSN" for "Google" because MSN was set to their home page, or the default search. I wonder if those practices are still widespread enough to create this same effect.

Given that Chrome is the new IE, I wonder how long (or ever) until they see competitors' brands in their popular search terms.


Don't underestimate the technical illiteracy here. A significant number of people don't really understand how the address bar or an URL works in a web browser. Use web searching as a substitute of typing an URL is common, and some can't distinguish the "search" function of an address bar and the "enter an URL" function of an address bar. Searching "Google" in the address bar to access Google in Google Chrome is not unusual (sometimes you'll get a search result of 'Google' at Google, sometimes you'll be autocompleted and get a Google homepage, users don't notice the difference). This is also the underlying basis of Google's idea of abolishing the address bar - some users don't understand it, a Walled Garden is "better".

I'm not saying that I support Google's idea, just to point out a phenomenon that exists.


Back when I was in high school (~5 years, not even that much), Firefox still had separate URL and search input fields. Of course the teachers used Chrome at home and were confused on why they couldn't search on the URL field.


Similar experience here.


Sorry but google flights have no competition. There is no better or more flexible and fast flight search than Google. No wonder why they won. Expedia should invest more in their flight search if they want to win.


"no competition" i guess you meant this figuratively. But in fact there is a ton of competition and the point of the article is that G is suppressing that competition by unfairly giving themselves the space which needs the least number of clicks to reach.


I love that "How Far Down Are the Traditional Search Results?" graphic.


This reminds me of the recent news about Amazon, spying on partners products and then offering them. This is the end game for all platforms that control demand, slowly take more and more vertical integration to capture segments of larger value. This includes 'pure information' that they steal from publishers (and thus remove visits from the publisher) and normal verticals, like travel/shopping/tools/etc.

I'm not sure that these marketplaces / demand owners should be able to as they wield unfair power vs other vertical specific offerings.


My own personal observations

- The "rich results" do indeed save people a click

- Some of them are excerpts from sites crawled by Google (that will tend to now be the 2nd result) that the user will no longer click on

- Google's query disambiguation is the best in the business

- They'd had a history of piggy backing on external resources and then turning them into their own, e.g. DMOZ, now wikipedia. I'm sure their knowledge ontology will soon render Wiki obsolete and push them down a result also.

- They've taken some verticals and halved the number of clicks competitors or "price comparison" sites previously got, albeit it's their search engine, they lay it out as they see fit.

It's changed a lot since the "10 blue links". Most of us probably used to think of search engines as an agnostic finder of information on the web, with ads on top. Now with "query intent" and monetisation - the temptation is too much and it's not so much about finding information "out there", on the web.

Because of the position that Google is now in wrt their dominance in search markets and to the extent they can monetise a query, no one else can match their revenue per user or find alterative avenues of traffic that are comparable to their portal (i.e. Google in the UK commands 95% of searches, 80% of ad spend is between them and Facebook). If Google decides they want to enter a vertical, it's hugely detrimental to others in that market. Someone who ranked #1 10 years ago would get 50% of clicks, IIRC it's closer to 20% now, because of all the other media on the page.

But in the end, there are other choices. The problem is that due to the monetisation Google is capable of (based on a lot of data acquisition about their users), it's hard for anyone to carve out an alternative. Particularly so when Google pay phone vendors and browsers for them to be the default engine, it's a perpetuating cycle.

My personal ideal would be 5 or 6 independent search engines, with a number of meta engines built on top of those independent data sources;algos. Purely for the sake of getting alternative points of view and perhaps past any filters or bias.


I know there's the sentiment of fear/hate/etc about Google taking over but...

1) Doesn't it make sense for them to do that? After offering the search engine for free for ages (not that paid search engines are a thing) and playing an important role in building the internet? For most, all the internet they know is thanks to Google

2) Wouldn't you do the same? Keep in mind they're a public company and we know how incentives are aligned when you're a public company


The fact that it "makes sense" for companies to become evil monopolies when they are capable of doing so is a problem. It's like a big hole in our economic system where everything breaks down and grinds to a halt.


> The fact that it "makes sense" for companies to become evil monopolies when they are capable of doing so is a problem

I’m no google fan but I don’t think evil is an appropriate word nor would I call them a monopoly when it comes to search. There are plenty of other options out there from all over the world, the fact that they aren’t that great isn’t googles fault (and it would need to be for them to be considered a monopoly).


From the article: 9/10 searches in the US come from Google.

There are lots of great search engines. But when Google has the largest share of web analytics and can literally track you around the internet, how can other search engines who respect you as a user even have a chance? Give search engines a level playing field. Google is the default search engine on the most popular web browser. Google is the default search engine on the largest mobile operating system. Please stop defending Google. They have a monopoly on search, and its time for them to get the MS IE treatment.


> how can other search engines who respect you as a user even have a chance

Again, I stay away from google for privacy reasons but just because they don’t respect privacy doesn’t have anything to with monopoly status. You can argue for privacy protecting legislation against google but again, that has nothing to do with monopoly status. Other search engines could choose to track you as well. That is a business decision not unfair advantage.


When ATT was a monopoly, your choice for a phone provider, across the U.S, was ATT. There was no way to switch, and they used this power to raise prices (hurting the consumer is generally a requirement for anti-trust cases in the US).

It'll be very challenging to win a serious court case where the Google search monopoly could be conquered by a user typing bing.com at the top of the screen. Never before has a 'monopoly' been so easy to stop using.


Ah, but you don't understand where the monopoly is. It's on the other side: Businesses must support Google Search and run Google Ads to stay in business. It is effectively impossible to operate any business in the US without a Google presence.


>Ah, but you don't understand where the monopoly is. It's on the other side: Businesses must support Google Search and run Google Ads to stay in business. It is effectively impossible to operate any business in the US without a Google presence.

Citation? For one, I don't think Facebook uses Google ads.


That's an incredibly disingenuous response. I am sure you are perfectly capable of understanding what I said and how true it is.


Give me a break. Google hasn't been a net positive for the internet in nearly a decade. And cry me a river about their "free" search. They're worth over $600 billion, much of which they acquired by selling out their users' privacy. These days, Google is a blight on the world, and deserves all the criticism lobbed at it.


> I know there's the sentiment of fear/hate/etc about Google taking over but...

It's the other way around, for these and other such shennanigans by other such megacorporations colonizing our protocols (rather than "building the internet"): yeah, it might make sense for them, in a selfish, short-term, myopic kind of way, but it harms the greater good. Apart from making it rather deplorable how they ate/eat chalk to get their foot in the door.

> For most, all the internet they know is thanks to Google

How so? Because most people "just google things"? You might as well say all the internet they know is thanks to whoever provided the electricity at the time.

People who make good websites made the interwebs something to flock something to in the first place, even though hardly anyone in the real world cared or knew about the web. These days, everybody is on the web because everybody is on the web, and people share workarounds for the latest corporate BS, and "hope" they will "listen" etc. That there are people for whom that's all they know doesn't mean those should be catered to.


Yeah it makes sense, however I don't think we should be grateful* that Google played an important role in building the internet, since for Google it is about control and that's where the problems begin.

*not that this was your point


Google didn't exist for the first decade of the web. When they came along, their innovation was minor and incremental: slightly more accurate search without paid results (funny how things change).

They then did a version of Hotmail with a worse GUI, but virtually limitless disk space.

Google just poaches talent away from more deserving companies, and puts it to work making their products a little worse every year than they were the year before. I'm not thankful for Google. I'm sad because they stifle progress.


I think it is just nostalgia for when the Internet was still young and interesting. Google made it easier and much faster to get to good, useful content. Now, it is just a mess. SEO/SEM folks beat Google. Now, no matter what you search, you either get content directly from Google or one of the thousands (maybe millions?) of content farms hoping to scrape a few pennies from your search.


> playing an important role in building the internet?

which role would that have been? internet was fine before google streamlined the web.

> For most, all the internet they know is thanks to Google

search, youtube and maps were great additions to the web, but i think most ppl here can share the mixed feelings about bringing the masses on the web.


3) Isn't a system in which monopolistic business practices make sense a fundamentally broken one?

4) Shouldn't we, as members of a democratic system of government, be concerned that this has become the case? And express that concern to others in order to spread understanding and continue the democratic process?

5) Isn't it strange how Hacker News comments so often take the position of large companies, as if those individuals aren't going to suffer from a small number of multi-trillion dollar companies ingesting entire industries in the long term?


What's missing from this is an "arms length relationship" - Google is making so much from ads that they're able to swamp entire industries with offhand choices.

I would very much like Google to experiment with new technologies and services (translate, flights, etc.) but I wish they'd spin them out as separate services and have them pay for placement in search results or fight it out for SEO placement.

As it stands they can launch mediocre products that do well as the new products get "free" premium placement.


> not that paid search engines are a thing

They are in enterprise, but I digress


Interestingly, they couldn't break into Enterprise Search (their Google-in-a-box product failed).


> I know there's the sentiment of fear/hate/etc about Google taking over but... > 1) Doesn't it make sense for them to do that?

There isn't any point being fearful/hateful/etc about stuff that it doesn't make sense for someone to do. If someone is acting against their own self interests it makes sense to speak persuasively. And they will likely stop doing it in time even if left to themselves.


No, I wouldn't do the same. Maximize profits? Yes, sacrifice core values and even social stability to acheive the goal? Nope. Be deceptive, do things against people's will? Nope.


Can you mention the worst or most deceptive thing they've done?


Larry and Sergey said from the very beginning we needed a search engine in the academic realm because ads present an inherent conflict of interest.

It's right here! http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html This was who they were and what they believed! Check out Appendix A, it's entirely about the mixed motivation of funding a search engine with ads.

Yet not only did they make an ad company that has a search engine, they increasingly made their ads less distinguishable from organic results over time. Big highlighted yellow boxes have become search results with a tiny Ad marker hidden in the paragraph. Because deceiving people into clicking on ads is more profitable than getting them to the best organic result.

When DoubleClick was bought they promised they'd keep the data separate to get the acquisition approved. Once it happened, they merged the data. Now they're saying the same about your Fitbit data...

Yes, the entire concept of Google is against Larry and Sergey's original paper on the matter. They sold out, and college Larry and Sergey would be ashamed of their present day counterparts.


I read Appendix A and it doesn't seem to be against what they are doing currently. Unless you assume their search engine has exceptions or intentional bias. We have no conclusive evidence to believe the same(including the currently discussed article). I am conflicted by their shopping app integration. But I wonder why I am having trouble accepting shopping integration vs maps integration. Having google maps part of the result makes for a better and quicker experience to information. But if shopping were a more successful product the reasons would hold their as well. I understand the intention behind anti-trust regulations in such cases but have trouble accepting them in data driven products like google which have huge user experience benefits from tighter integration of their own products. I would love if anyone could help me with my conflicting thoughts on this.


So, the first thing you need to understand is that over half of users can't distinguish the ads from the organic results: https://www.stateofdigital.com/adwords-vs-organic-difference...

So if you look at the Appendix example below,

> A good example was OpenText, which was reported to be selling companies the right to be listed at the top of the search results for particular queries

...That is actually what Google itself is doing today, in a very real and practical sense. They claim it's different because ads aren't search results, but since users can't tell the difference anymore, the result is the same.

Another example in the Appendix is about trademark squatting:

> For example, we noticed a major search engine would not return a large airline's homepage when the airline's name was given as a query. It so happened that the airline had placed an expensive ad, linked to the query that was its name. A better search engine would not have required this ad, and possibly resulted in the loss of the revenue from the airline to the search engine.

Google does a slightly modified version of this too: It places competitors' ads above the real result for the airline's brand. This means that, in order for the airline to be the "top result" for it's own brand name, it has to pay Google for an ad that Larry and Sergey conclude "shouldn't be required".

If you search for "best buy" on Google and aren't blocking ads, you'll notice the ad at the top is a Best Buy ad. There's no good reason they should have to buy that ad, because they're obviously the best result, the user already knew what they were looking for. But if you want to be the "top result" on Google search, you have to pay for it now.

And we've hit that mixed motivation issue with an ad-based search engine: Google makes a lot of money when you click an ad. It doesn't make a lot of money when you click the organic search results. So Google has a huge incentive to make the ads look like search results, which is why Google search ads now look nearly identical to search results.


It's a long list, hard to pick the worst. A few things come to mind like how they read your email and used it for ads (but then said sorry and stopped), log you into google on chrome if you login to any google service, shadow tracking, recording conversations and keeping it long term, location history tracking without user consent, secretly turning on wifi to track users, collecting payment and form history and exposing it acrosss devices, so much more. Those are just crimes against individuals, the things they do with theit work with governments!

Be warned, you didn't care now when they abuse their power against others ,don't expect anyone left to carr when they use it against you.


I wouldn't do that in a million years. We need to get rid of this idea that everyone is selfish, greedy and evil and, therefore, criticizing corruption is hypocritical. I really am better than Google executives, and you should strive to be as well.

The way people so casually excuse immoral behaviour, as if we have no obligation to do the right thing, truly sickens me.


1) Doesn't it make sense for them to do that? After offering the search engine for free for ages (not that paid search engines are a thing)

They've made a fortune so instead of saying they've "offered it for free" let's point out that they are not a charity. Google became famous for saying that they will list the best SE when ranking, not Google properties or ads.

>>and playing an important role in building the internet? For most, all the internet they know is thanks to Google

Even if you said is true, another one would have done what Google did. By the way, internet as we know it today, would have happened without Google. In fact, MS and Apple did a LOT more for the internet...a computer in every home and all.


Tricky. It does feel anti-competitive but at the same time their info is usually also the best. So a strong argument can be made that it’s 1 based on merit


You don't know if it's the best because there is no competition to discover better info. All other websites are presented with only 2 or 3 lines of text (search results) and have no free access to presentation forms that googles own content has.


Everything's "based on merit" until merit doesn't line up with the company's interests anymore.

I use google translate and maps and images all the time, so them showing up at the top of the results page isn't inconvenient for me, but sometimes when I use them I get results that are actively bad and I have to go seek out other services. There are probably many cases where I get bad results and am not informed enough to recognize that the results were bad!


Google (as well as Facebook) are becoming AOL 2.0 - users only know the service and not the mechanism or source. All info comes from G (or F). Syndicated or outright copied from all over the web but appearing with the “friendly, familiar and welcoming Logo our users know, love and trust” /s


Search engines seem like they're subject to quantum mechanics, in that they're the observer that affects the state of the internet.

An internet without search engines was an internet without SEO, and without vast fortunes being spent on manipulating content to sell garbage. Launching "Backrub" in that environment must have seemed like an unalloyed good, but the very act of launching it turned out to have a profoundly negative impact on the web as a whole.


I guess I mean this as a semi-defense of Google, even though I don't like them and use DDG personally.

When doing a search on travel, what are the odds you get not-garbage in your results? Compare, say, 2000 to 2020. I can see a scenario in which Google was committed to providing open results, but those open results slowly became garbage, and they felt compelled to launch their own tool to ensure good results.

And sure, it puts profit in their pocket too, of course.


I would gladly pay for a search engine that actually did some things better than Google. Like say being better at finding [semi]exact phrases, especially longer ones. Something that focused on the long tail of search queries. Also, yes, I do feel like Google has gotten pretty bad for some normal queries. But this might as well be a function of the Internet/Web changing overall.

But I find this focus on Google's supposed moral infractions ridiculous. And then competitors popup that have a strictly worse products user-wise, but want to win by claiming higher moral ground. They don't fix any of the issues. I just don't see any of that taking off.

To date, I have not seen a single search engine that actually does something significant better. Not only that, pretty much all of them fail miserably for anything more specific. This tells me Google is still absolutely on top of their game.

I like these widgets. Sometimes I even get annoyed when I WAS expecting it to popup but it wouldn't.


Privacy is a major feature. Morality is most definitely something a business can be better at. You can't just hand wave it away like it doesn't matter. DuckDuckGo might not give the best results, but I would trade that for privacy 10 times out of 10.


> How a search for “Linux” has changed. In 2000, Google only returned “organic” results, ads, and a category header. Now the top of the page is full of Google products and “answers.” Source: 2000 screenshot/Archive.org

Weird example to use in a screenshot since everything they show is a link to an external site.


I feel Google has turned on its pledge of doing no evil. It is not shamelessly stealing publishers content and displaying it in the featured snippets. So the searcher has really no incentive of clicking on the search result anymore. He is getting all the information on Google itself.


Usually the snippets are outright crap. But this is the end result of SEO noise overwhelming signal.


Maybe, Google should be forced to create a separate tab for the knowledge graph and other tools. like they are doing it for images, the news, or videos. when I want to search the web, I want to search the web.

Because I see the issues with this. I also think those information have a value for users.


Maybe Google's search business and ad business should be broken up...


Google is removing the concept of urls and domains. Apps do this but so does not showing part of the URL in the URL bar and not showing the URL as it is in the result pages without the breadcrumb type redesign. They also realized they make more money when they show a favicon of websites to obfuscate the fact that they have to legally label Ads as ads. The ads txt is directly proportional to the size of the fav icon in serps. Google is evil.

Let’s not forget how google reader and blogger were killed. The greater idea is to not remember anything and to go directly to google each time, making them the sole source of content.


Because of the things cited in the article I spend less time in the Google search results page. I typically find the answer I'm looking for and get on with my day. Because I'm spending less time I actually use it more now.

Sometimes when I'm looking up stuff on how to do things physically like how to install a part in a car or fix something in my house I'll get a YouTube widget at the top which will take me to the exact moment in a video where what I'm looking for is being performed. This is magic to me. However Google is definitely promoting themselves in this case and I might not go anywhere past the very top of the search results page. Is this a bad thing?


The problem here is that something that's useful for users (saving time with knowledge panels, question/answer lists, and suggested searches) also takes away clicks from other websites. Something can be both good for the user in the short-term (quicker answers) and bad for the user in the long term (fewer websites survive if clicks are diverted). We have the same issue with "ecosystems". It's great for the user that the Google Assistant can ring the Pixel phone if you don't know where it is. But it's one more feature that locks our smaller/independent competitors.


Great study and presentation!

And an impressive website for a publisher. The average publisher is full of advertising, calls-to-action and several MBs weight of external scripts. This one is so simple, fast to load and clean. Congrats!


Amazon top search results? Surprise, Amazon-made products!


Not defending Amazon, but that's far from the default experience in my experience. Maybe I just search for a lot of specific thing Amazon doesn't sell themselves.


If anything I am searching can even remotely be considered a product or paid service, I get an entire page, minus one link of links that have the [ad] box on them. And they're all shady 3rd party retailers. And when I want to find a product, to get the manufacturers website and product details, it's nowhere to be found. Just page upon page of [ad] links.


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