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Ask HN: What's Up with Google?
350 points by emsy 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 213 comments
Recently, I notice more and more search results Google are locked behind registration gates, and not only does Google list them at all, they're often the top results (Think Quora, Pinterest). I never had issues accessing the content in the results but recently, it's bad. Does no one at Google care? Are the people in charge investors at Pinterest/Quora?

I've noticed in the past 2-3 months that results from StackOverflow, Wikipedia, and official programming language documentation sites seem to have been abruptly downranked. They used to typically be in the top 3 results for me for appropriate queries, but now they frequently aren't even on the first page.

Yes and on the other hand sites like codegrepper and other such scraper/scam sites are frequently showing in my search results - which are just SO results.

I don't know if they're gaming Google's search or google is actually condoning this (like they've been condoning pinterest's shenanigans for almost 10 years now)

There is a ublock origin list which you can import to filter search results:


I think I speak for many others when I say thank you for sharing this.

This is awesome... for now. But what are we supposed to do when Manifest(o) V3 takes hold?

    # ln -s /usr/bin/firefox /usr/bin/google-chrome-stable

amazing! ty


It has become very bad; searching for something like an error message, the first result is SO and results 2-9 will be SO scrapers.

Unlike say, Pinterest, I don't see anything Google could gain from "condoning" these scraper sites. I feel it's 1. gradual ranking algorithm changes 2. succesful gaming.

> I don't see anything Google could gain from "condoning" these scraper sites

Do these scraper sites show Google ads?

I genuinely believe it's because the scraper sites have more Google ads on them compared to Wikipedia and Stack Overflow. The ad load on returned search results has reached astronomic proportions. I use uBlock on my laptop, but it's almost impossible to view search results on my phone.

Install Firefox, and use uBlock on your phone too.

I’ve noticed that as well. I’ve been finding a lot of queries are now leading me to those awful sites that just dump StackOverflow content onto a page and surround it with ads. The original Stack Overflow page is nowhere to be found on the first page, but if I grab a sentence from the spam page and search again, I can normally find the original.

Just last week I read about these search operators like site:example.com and learned that you can also use them to block certain sites (with -sites:example.com) and combine them. That gave me the idea to build a UI that manages allowed/blocked sites and always adds them as a chain of operators to the query.

Today I had some free time so I've build https://my-search.surge.sh/ as POC. It's a just static site. Everything is stored in localStorage. Works with Google and DuckDuckGo.

For now it's just a fun experiment, nothing more. Repo linked in the About page. Feedback welcome! :)

It was a long time since I had to append "wikipedia" to my search results, but within the last year or so, I find myself doing it more and more.

I use DuckDuckGo, it's really easy to end searches with "w!" and go straight to the Wikipedia page.

I didn't know you could put it at the end! I always bang first and ask questions later.

[edit] Just noticed you also live in Portland like me. If you're a bartender, I bet I've met you haha.

> I always bang first and ask questions later.

Definitely change your ways. It's always better to bang at the end.

I've started going straight to Wikipedia and searching there if I know I'm going to end up there anyway for the same reason, plus I deny Google the search data and ad-serve

Hadn’t actively thought it that but I’ve been doing the same

I do that for everything since a long time. And with the !Bang extension coming to Firefox, customising those searches has become easier too

I do that for Reddit a lot

Yeah I’ve noticed this as well

Here’s a magic trick for you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search

That's why I created "Developer search" chrome extension to easily add filters for site and time on your search https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/developer-search/d...

I've also observed this on duckduckgo, perhaps to a slightly lesser extent. Strange: they either both tweaked their algorithms around the same time, or maybe SEO spam suddenly got a lot better.

Or bing is copying google listings still and using some data in it's own search

Same experience here. Also happening on other search engines such as duckduckgo. Have to append keywords like "wiki" to searches.

I think the utility of generic search engines is coming to an end. Services like Google, Bing and DDG are numbered in usefulness.

Instead, I am guessing (maybe hoping) that we see a return of the moderated directories, like Yahoo or DMOZ of old. A 2.0 spin on these directories, with lessons learned from all the years.

Imagine that you just go to StackOverflow and search there directly for your answer. Want a funny laugh, go to your favorite comedy website (like facebook.com) and search directly. Want some news, go to CNN or Fox (depending on your persuasion) and fill your echo chamber.

Not kidding. I think search as we know it is dead. And there is a new paradigm just sitting out there ready for the next generation to make.

A directory of well known lists of websites with specialty search engines available on each.

I've been coming to a similar conclusion.

Increasingly I've had to use `site:<domain name>` syntax with DDG, but DDG has clearly become significantly worse in recent months. This was confirmed by others in another HN thread recently. Even if I use the site-syntax or use quotes to specify exact match (which DDG used to honor), I'll often get nonsense results whereas Yandex somehow manages to find results that aren't on DDG or Google.

And yeah, I've been having to use search engines on specific sites like Wikipedia because I know there's gonna be less shenanigans.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm living in the past. Do normies actually use search engines anymore?

In the past Google appeared to better honour advanced searches using boolean operators. You could add operators to narrow a search quite effectively.

From my experience, they have diluted that functionality in favour of keyword and context matching against popular searches. Often the thing I want to find is not the most popular thing. Breaking out of that and the search bubbles you get associated with is becoming increasingly difficult. I find myself more and more clicking past the first page if results hoping what I want is there just with less SEO. Rarely is there anything relevant beyond page 3. I definitely remember sometimes digging multiple pages deep into the search results and still finding useful information.

In the early days of Google the speed at which you got the search results was a major factor, I remember being surprised at the speed of response and the quality of the results the first time I was introduced to Google. They still include the search time at the top of the results.

I would prefer to regain strict boolean logic in search at the cost of increased search time. I often care more about actually finding what I want than how fast the result can be returned.

Maybe something like the default search works as it does today as it gives a fast result that has a high likelihood will contain what most people want to see. Then allow for advanced search that strictly adheres to the search terms but could take a few minutes to return the results.

I think there's a market for sites that have optimized search around a specific category of information. For example, imagine you had a hybrid directory+search model, where you could drill down into the directory: Top -> Programming -> Lisp -> Scheme

And from there, search a repertoire of Scheme related articles, tips, blogs, etc.

This model already exists, somewhat, in the form of scholarly articles, medical journals, etc. But there seems to be some innovation needed.

If there were such a "site" that focused on and aggregated Scheme related documentation, you'd think that being listed on that search-directory would be totally acceptable to the website owner. After all, a web article or blog generally wants to be read, especially by an interested reader.

Somehow we need to get back to the web being like a library, with a librarian and a well organized categorical index for references.

Getting humans back into the search loop I think is where we're going to circle to. Like asking your local librarian for information about a topic that is in their special collection.

this is known as faceted search https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faceted_search

on edit: I remember Carrot2 had the ability to derive categories from an index dynamically at one point, so when we put all the Danish laws into it and you searched for murder it generated categories such as Knife Murder etc. anyway here is the online Carrot2 with a search on Scheme https://search.carrot2.org/#/search/web/scheme/folders

on edit2: obviously this Carrot2 online thing is just a demo, they don't have a particularly big or up to date index. I'm also not sure how well Carrot2 would scale as it was, IIRC, an academic project to investigate different ways of searching / organizing search results. Check out the treemap.

Hey - thanks for giving a name for this and the link to Wikipedia. I know it's not a "new" idea, but a faceted search organized and usable broadly across the www would be really useful.

Yandex searches the long tail better and doesn't have really awful politicized censorship like Google does for some searches.

I've been using a browser extension aptly named "Search the current site". Just click the icon and type a search term, while being on that website. It will append site:domain to your search.

I don't buy it. The technology to fight SEO gaming and filter bad results has been around for a while and is only getting better, but google is getting greedy and sloppy. Google has mind-blowing AI/machine learning capabilities and I didn't see shit about cleaning up search results in their last update. They could fix this if they wanted, and an upstart company that figures it out will eat google's lunch. Google makes an insane amount of profit, and a search engine that actually works may make less but would still be profitable.

I tried that, but I try to search in wide world, sometimes about topics that I don't even understand. So I don't know where to look. And many of my searches are like that (examples: how merchant fees work, how QC affects stock prices, effects of vitamin D3, how price parity is determined, how to focus on something boring) All these are varied terms and most of search results will be like that, so I wonder if moderated directories would ever serve that.

I hear you. But arguably, imagine you could search a "collection" after you drilled down into your category.

  Top -> Finance -> Credit Card -> Merchant Fees + Search
  Top -> Finance -> Stock Market -> Algorithms + Search
  Top -> Health -> Vitamins + Search
And of course, the Wikipedia is a good jumping off point for all of that information. But imagine a wikipedia-like place that then allowed you to find the top level information that you're looking for with additional search capabilities in its supporting collection.

Maybe the start of this is taking a Wikipedia article on Price Parity and then enumerating the referenced articles in the footnotes and putting a search engine over those perhaps.

I don't know. But there's got to be something better than what we have right now. I feel another leap of search innovation happening soon.

You'll have to think for yourself a bit. Which platform and country are the merchant fees about? Do you want the official source and legal text, a professionals opinion from a magazine or newspaper, or a blog post by someone detailing what they experienced?

A good search engine can and should ask you about this and present you with your choices. Or, of course, they can choose what to show you to optimise for something, be it response time, resource consumption or ad profit.

Such optimism!

Don't you think it's more likely in a post keyboard/computer-literate world Search web sites are displaced by vendor-provided App search boxes?

You wanted news? Here's the CNN proprietary app in this beautiful walled garden! Enjoy the ads and total loss of privacy! [This app requires the following permissions: ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US]

I think that's a fair point. The world of "apps" has certainly changed the meaning and usefulness of search. There's no exploring and random discovery when you're in the walled garden, unlike what it used to be like when you could really "surf" the web.

How many of your searches lead directly to Wikipedia or stackoverflow or GitHub. Often we know where we should go but the default search engine in the address bar leads us through a Google intermediary. I myself use keyword searches to go directly to sites, but I doubt that is very common.

Internal search can often be scammy though. If you search Google for products, you'll land on an Amazon page, but if you do your search on Amazon instead, they will sometimes only show you more expensive versions of the general product, as if the cheap one that you were looking for doesn't exist.

> Instead, I am guessing (maybe hoping) that we see a return of the moderated directories, like Yahoo or DMOZ of old. A 2.0 spin on these directories, with lessons learned from all the years.

Not impossible, but given the proliferation of content on the web and the endless possibilities for competing organizing schemas and editorial choices, it would pretty much have to be a directory of directories.

So, each directory could be it's own self-organizing community, like a subreddit.

But is this driven by the supply side or demand side?

Seems to me that users would still benefit from a cross-site search capability (eg to follow your example, what if you want something funny not from a specific site or you don't know which sites offer something)

It's subjective but most of the pressure seems to be because the search quality has dropped off recently, not that I'm no longer willing/eager to search.

I hope to see the rise of distributed search. It's not that generic search is the problem, just that companies have different, and often counter, priorities than users.

You should try Neeva[0], made by ex-Google Search folks.

[0]: https://neeva.com/p/signup?o=s&c=c3af6jnfmc2dehs8tq5g

"coming soon to your region"

Ugh, that triggers me hard. I haven't lived in Germany nor Sweden for ~7 years now and Google never really figured out (despite me telling it so) that I don't need gmaps results in Stockholm and Berlin, and that yes, all my g products should be showing the English UI.

If these folks are ex-google they might consider not doing shit like this in the first place.

Damn, that sucks! No idea they did things like that.

Try DuckDuckGo. It has shortcuts for searching - at last count - 13,565 sites.

isn't that pretty much what you.com tries to do? Sort of a combination of both ordinary search results and categories based on sources.

i just use google to search reddit these days.

Funny, Google search is so cluttered these days I almost automatically append "reddit" to any product or technique search. I think a lot of people are doing this, because the "People also ask" block on search results will often have questions like "best lawnmower reddit?" (a fine example of that Google quality we've all heard so much about)

Which is why reddit is starting to flood with spam. It won't last long.

Sshh, you're ganna ruin it.

It's a rather standard tech company model: you build a product so good it becomes indispensable, then you stick the customers in a vice and squeeze until all the money comes out. "Produce the best search results" hasn't been the guiding principle for a good decade now.

"Not growing is failing" is the most toxic principle of modern business. There is a finite amount of people, of money to be made. Ever-increasing income is fundamentally impossible. When you can't increase revenue by further improving your product, you increase revenue by making the same product more profitable, which generally means a worse product. In the eyes of the business major, the ideal business is one in which all of your customers hate you not quite enough to stop using you.

I would just answer: ad buyers are Google's clients, and users are more like fodder. Not an original thought, I know.

I would be interested to know what major users of Google's advertising services think about the quality of their services recently.

It depends, i don't think anyone is happy having to buy ads for your own brand when you are organically the 1st result.

Another thing I saw is that now adsense has full page size ads, like modals. I remember the times, around 2010, when having too many ad units together could get you banned.

That last line is enlightening.

It's a trend I've noticed with other services, notably Drive and Calendar - they no longer innovate, just get a UI tweak every few years. It's very reminiscent of cash cows, which typically are resourced to just keep going at minimal expense for as long as possible. Another possibility is that the product isn't "sexy" anymore, so they are having trouble finding the great staff they need to stay at the forefront. This would be fine if the rest of the world stood still, but clearly SEO has moved on in the meantime, and so we end up with a quagmire. It's basically another form of bit rot.

Unfortunately DDG is much worse in a different way - it seems incapable of dealing with synonyms. I can't recall a specific example since I switched back to Google, but it's on the order of searching for Python and getting results for Java (wrong subtree of the taxonomy), searching for Wellington and getting results for the whole of New Zealand (ignoring specifiers), or searching for double glazed windows and getting results for Microsoft Windows (no understanding of the semantics of the words being related).

Please. No.

The stuff just works.

From the experience of having several critical business SaaS tools go thru constant UX changes that disrespect the user and make the product less stable, I'm actually glad Google still have some respect for the user.

That's why i will gladly buy gsuite for the businesses i provide advice to, yet actively considering replacements of core business infra of which im a power user....for several years.

Its hard to keep something running with no bugs, or downtime.

Its even harder to change something, and keep it bug free, and with no downtime.

Oh, I don't want them to "innovate" like they've done elsewhere, just that they need to continue actually improving their services. I've had lots of interoperability, standards compliance and currency conversion issues with their services and practices, such as that time when I spend something like a year getting false promises from their support about being able to pay them in a different currency from the one with which I'd set up the account. In the end they exhausted the grace period for payment, and just shut down access to my account. Luckily by then I'd shopped around and found (to my surprise) a cheaper alternative which I'm still using.

I think innovation != backwards-incompatible UX changes. There's quite a lot that Excel can do that GSuite can't, for instance. There's probably room for additional features that don't affect current workflows.

You're right, however there are spots where the tools/products have just the 'right amount' of features.

e.g. grep, vim.

Those are both massively bloated in terms of features, IMO. One curse of most open source projects is that features are almost never removed, even when they are obsolete, dangerous or plain stupid.

Just works? Have you tried moving a file in g drive?

I wonder if they ever got Google docs to print/convert to pdf without disrupting the formatting.

I need to do this regularly. The UI for move file is atrocious!

Googler, opinions are my own.

For products that are core, large UI changes tend to just annoy a lot of users, unless there's something really amazing about the change. Even then, people are hesitant to like new UIs. Engineers and designers definitely want to try new things, but balancing those against messing with UIs that a billion+ people use is hard.

My general take on drive and calendar, if they are trying to improve these cases for enterprise users. There's a lot of very non-sexy work going on to make these improvements, and they aren't always visible.

It's not "large" UI changes that are needed. (I mean, they are needed, the current google UI for most of their products sucks).

But it's small improvements that make the big difference. A small user interface element added or removed to speed up an interaction. An updated user experience so that data can be found or organized in a slightly different way.

I could pick on almost everyone of Google's products and have gripes about some UI or UX choice. Missing functionality here, overly complex there, etc. Every product has obvious low hanging fruit that could be improved.

That's what parent is referring to (I assume). There's no more micro-innovation happening. If it's not a change that makes 100 bazallion dollars, then it's just not a change worth doing, apparently.

Every product has obvious low-hanging fruit that could be improved in the UX — yet the company persists in spending effort on sweeping yet entirely cosmetic changes that deliver zero value.

A good example is changing the typeface of text labels in every product to match the new Google logo, which Google seem to have been continuously doing for years on end now. I would argue this even has negative value, as it creates a mix of two typefaces (Roboto and Product Sans) in every product that used to have one, which causes every future UI design decision to be saddled with the extra cost of deciding which of the two to use.

One such example is the ability to copy my own email address. Gmail makes it so damn difficult it's mind-boggling. Whenever I try to copy my email address other elements are included in the selection, right-click is disabled and probably other annoying things happen: https://i.imgur.com/Ds0ROuT.png

Protonmail understood this and catered to this need without much fuss: https://i.imgur.com/1ZhWOsC.png

I don’t think it’s that per se, for instance Meet has been innovating in small ways to the point where I believe it’s way better than Zoom. But not all Google tools are innovating at the same rate.

Plus it's more fun to make a new chat / meet or payment app. Apparently.

I'm sure a marketing firm specifically tailored to such startups looking for a quick exit would be rather profitable.

I don't think it came across the way I intended, because I am one of those users who don't really care for most large UI changes. It feels like UI designers are the only people in large organisations who are actually allowed to throw old code away. My point was more that non-UI improvements are extremely rare, probably because they are both difficult to get right and not "sexy" in the sense of being nicely demo-able to less technically savvy managers.

Calendar is great; but I wish it would let me edit an event the same way I can quick-enter one; from a pop-up. I'm half-inclined to write a browser ext to do it.

Also the latest updates to Sheets in the menubars have been welcome

DDG is also much worse if you Google things like “1 crore inr in usd.”

It blows my mind that Google penalizes sites for being a fraction of a second slower than they imagine they should be, but a site I can’t actually view- right to the top baby.

But is that still the case? I recall reading about this as well, but that was years ago. In the meantime Google throws up a gigantic disclaimer popup every time you want to use any of their services, slowing things down by seconds.

(Happens every time because I don't whitelist Google cookies, because are you kidding.)

If you can get a beta invite for https://kagi.com get it. Not only are their defaults really good you also have the option to customize your searches by blacklisting, creating groups with sites like stackoverflow, github, hackernews etc for a dev search and so much more. It feels like google in the 00s with better customization.

> Customize Results

I feel like Google could be 10 times better if it allowed the user to block/boost pages.

Got a "The invite you provided is invalid or expired.". I guess it's used up.

Tried getting one. Told me to fill up a survey. Closed.

You won't be a good beta tester without providing feedback so good for them.

It's a paid search engine, they're going to get your name, address, credit card details and everything you search for and click on. If a survey puts you off, that's probably a good early warning.

Google since Page and Brin bailed has become a highly political organization interested only in short term revenue growth, and is no longer an engineering organization focused on product excellence. Anyone that has used their messaging products over the years has noticed this.

This type of business attracts a different class of talent and nearly all of the old guard has cashed in their stock and left.

Spot on.

The really interesting question is whether this is actually avoidable or if all highly successful human organizations that started with high bar ideals and brilliant folks are eventually doomed to rot in place the way Google has.

I believe this is more or less Christensen’s argument in “The Innovator’s Dilemma” [0]. Google is now the incumbent beholden to shareholders.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Innovator%27s_Dilemma

To be, or not to be evil . . .

Google should just outright delist these sites, they are incredibly annoying and worthless

Indexing flexible sampling makes no sense to me. I realize GoogleBot sees Quora differently than a human sees it, but they could easily make back end penalties. Your site loads too slowly? Organic search penalty. Broken rendering on mobile? Penalty. So why is human inaccessible content OK?

If content is blocked to me 70% of the time, shouldn’t there be a commensurate penalty? These publishers are shitting up Google results while harvesting free traffic to goose their new user acquisition numbers.

It’s the degradation of the organic Google product experience, I’ve always been baffled why they allow it.

Google has "kinda" allowed this to happen for a number of years. They used to push sites to have a "first read free" policy so that their bot can still access semi-gated content.

Now they suggest "flexible sampling" [0] to let "users" view a limited amount of content per time period.

This is a game Google has been playing for a while that goes beyond SEO and seems to really be some issue with publishers. But to be fair there are a number of instances where publishers want free access to Google's search pages and users while requesting a fee for writing the content they indexed in the first place.

[0] https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/appearanc...

There's a number of ways that you can expose paywalled content to Google without showing it to the user. The obvious one is paywalling content on the client side and hiding it from the user. I actually think this probably explains why client-side paywalling is so prevalent even though it's obviously far less effective. You can also serve your content in structured data that google's bots read (e.g. json+ld). I also think it's a tricky question because people often want to see authoritative sites high up in the search results even if they're paywalled, so "delisting these sites" isn't a solution that satisfies most people.

Hiding content is supposed to be against Google's stated policies.

Try searching for a news article, using the exact same title, as it's published on let's say... Breitbart. Now tell me that Google do not "hide" sites from it's users.

Google's policies explicitly differentiate between paywalled content from what they call cloaking. See the GP's link to the Google developer documentation.

They'd be staring at a bunch of lawsuits if they did that. Remember Google itself pretty much forces/nags you to login if you're on Chrome.

Why would they? Few will stop using Google over that problem, and who's to say they aren't getting paid to keep Pinterest in the results?

This is one of the many problems we're trying to tackle at you.com (full disclosure, I work there).

We felt like it's important that you can select your preferred sources and downvote sources you don't like.

For this and other reasons we separate the experience into a private and personalized mode. So you get exactly what you want based on your explicit settings (like StackOverflow code snippets or arxiv papers) and can have hardcore privacy when you want that (where your location isn't used, not even your searches are stored like on DDG).

I’ve had pretty good success with dev related searches on you.com. I like the idea of being able to downvote garbage sources. Who owns the company?

What's the business model, currently and in the long run? Also, is this built on top of another search engine's results?

Hey. We will work on it together with the community this year.

Private mode is even more private than DDG so we will likely have to do private ads just like them.

But for the personalized experience we have a few ideas that I think are more creative and more aligned with users and privacy but not fully fleshed out yet. We're still a very small team but hoping to ship them this quarter.

Care to explain how is the private mode superior to DDG and what is a purpose of a non-private mode?

It's not. When OP first launched his search engine a few months ago, it was pointed out to him multiple times that DDG doesn't seem to communicate with third-parties, but You does even when in private mode. OP avoided that question - and a few others - then and, it appears he's still avoiding it now (he hasn't responded to you in 2 days).


Thanks to this cursed god forsaken parasite "Pinterest" I just completely stopped using google's image search option. I'm using bing/ddg now and it feels soooo good compared to how awful google search experience became

Both Firefox and Chrome have an 'unpinterested' add-on.

Bing is best for image search but it suck on mobile.


Ublock Origin is your friend. Add custom filters to remove these from search results. For example you can remove Pinterest from Google result using filter


And DDG using filter

duckduckgo.##.results > div:has(a[href="pinterest.com"])

I just discovered how poor the search results are if you're logged in with your Google account. Have to log out or view in incognito mode just to see what you were searching for. Also I didn't realize how censored Google's results were until I started comparing them side by side with DDG.

Can you search as if you're from a different country? My incognito searches are useless because they are region-specific.

Edit: Yes, you can do this if you click on settings -> show more settings -> show more countries and pick the country you want. Which seems like a pain.

You should be able to do this by navigating to google.com/?gl=us, google.com/?gl=sg, etc.

I stopped using Google search (and most of their services) about three years ago.

I used DDG for a while, but I was not convinced.

Bing is average, not as good as Google once was, far from it in fact, but more relevant than the duck and less annoying than Google.

But yeah, search is in a bad state.

Would love to hear your thoughts on you.com We're trying to innovate on various aspects of search, design, UX, AI, etc.

Not a huge fan of the domain name.

The landing page was not super clear about the usage, crowded.

I don't understand the service or the value here.

Can someone explain to me why the video results are so bad? Half the time I'm looking for YouTube and YouTube never shows up? Was this due to a lawsuit or something? Half the time it's some random website that has a 2minute video before two 30second ad rolls, never what I want.

I always assumed it was because YT and Search were different groups at Google. This tends to happen all the time. The OneGoogle thing (having one Google account everywhere) must have taken an act of god!

My impression is that this was due to some legal constraint. I vaguely remember hearing about some legal pressure that prioritizing YouTube results was abusing monopoly power, and then shortly after that noticing as a user that YouTube became surprisingly uncommon as a result. It still annoys me.

Not a snark, but why would you search for youtube videos on google, rather than on youtube?

YouTube's search isn't very good.

I think it's the best search google has produced. Probably the most extreme example of how good it is: Search for "reebok or the nike" and "Corona - The Rhythm of the Night (Official Music Video)" is the 3rd result :^)

Another suprising example: Search for "ádzseszkó", which is how a hungarian speaker who doesn't speak a lick of english would write "I just called", successfully finds Stevie Wonder - I Just Called To Say I Love You

I recently stopped using google and switched my default to DuckDuckGo. So far I haven't needed to go back to google for anything.

Me too. DDG is still not as good on certain searches, but most of the time it's perfectly adequate.

You are correct. I tried DDG before but it just isn’t good enough. I have been trying the new you.com search engine for a couple of months and it is really good, more so if you are in tech and your searches are work related.

Same, I've found you.com much more useful than DDG, especially for code related searches. Been using it for a month and haven't gone back.

One day I hope either ddg becomes good, or a good alternative pops up.

DDG is pretty good, it just requires a bit more context on average. As using a search engine is a lot about knowing the right choice of keywords it takes some time to adjust to the differences. Waiting for another random search engine that works exactly like Google is gonna take a while.

I still find what I need, that's all I care about. And I can't remember seeing a pinterest link on the first page.

Frequently, I search ddg, fail to find what I'm looking for, and then search Google. Or don't bother searching ddg on a certain kind of search because I know it won't find it. Both Google and DDG are mediocre versions of 2010 Google.

So DDG (bing) doesn't list these sites OP mentioned?

It’s less the DDG/Bing is good and more that Google is declining.

How does switching to DDG / Bing help? You would only get worse results.

All I’m saying is I switched my default search on my phone and browser to ddg (just to try it out) and the results have been good enough to not make me switch back to google.

DDG is a necessarily inferior product.

If you're looking for an alternative, try Kagi. Much better search results than DDG/Bing, but it supports all the DDG !bangs. No Google-style knowledge graph/instant answers though, and while the beta is free, they plan to eventually start charging.


I signed up to the beta but have heard nothing from them since regarding an invite. I’d pay for it now even in beta. Why won’t they take my money!?

It isn't so much about whether "Google cares" or otherwise. There are a lot of sites and a lot of vested interests trying to game their search rankings, and a huge number of keywords that the game is playing out in.

Sometimes low quality sites will have the advantage and sometimes high quality sites will have the advantage. Google is working with a bias to high quality, but they are fighting a broad fight against persistent opponents. Every so often Google does a big algorithm refactor to try and make life hard for these sort of sites.

How do you know this? Any links to read more?

I'm mostly recalling the occasional headline news when Google does a big engine revamp [0] then extrapolating to say they probably do a lot of smaller ones that they don't draw attention to.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Google_Search

It's also that free sites suck these days. Quora is still free for vast majority of content, just need to register, and has very interesting facts and nuanced opinions. The Economist is a place to read real news rather than talk shows that CNN and Fox have become. Ad supported doesn't seem to work for quality content. So do you want to at least be aware of the quality stuff or just browse junk? Serious question, there should be a search engine to cater to "free only" crowd.

I certainly wouldn't want Google to exclude or even automatically downrank paid sites for exactly the reason you bring up here. If Google didn't show the paid stuff, I'd be unlikely to know it exists. And there's nothing wrong with having to pay for high quality information. I wonder if a payment model that provides the option to pay per article might make sense to allow people who know they're not going to regularly use the site to still benefit from the information. Or maybe not per article, but instead the option to pay for a day of access instead of a month.

I’m all for paying for high quality information, but wasn’t the point of the Web that anyone could participate? For example, I’d rather pay an independent blogger in Ukraine to tell me about the border crisis from their lens than go through a centralized gatekeeper like NYT to have some office worker in NYC opine on the crisis.

Unfortunately Google downranks primary sources and sends secondary sources to the top. Essentially the Web has become cable television instead of a global system for the open exchange of knowledge and information and something about that is super depressing and rubs me the wrong way.

Weird I feel DDGs search quality has also gone down recently. I find myself jumping between google and DDG and sometimes to Bing when both are broken.

It is like search is broken on all the major providers. Not sure if they are copying each other or if SEO spam has become a lot better.

As DDG obtains its results from Bing I think Bing is deliberately trying to downgrade quality of search so as to make people use its service and its working I usually find the results that I need on Bing and not on DDG using same query.

Google is going in wrong way and just promoting spam sites and ads.

In 2016 Google pushed for AI and replaced the guy in charge of the search product (Amit Singhal) by the guy in charge of the AI division.

From there it's all been downhill from an user perspectives, I'm sure at first the saw ad revenue increased.

An era has finished, that's all. Google's corpse will be decomposing for quite a while though. Hopefully they will find their Nadella before they get completely IBM'd.

They're leading the field in AI/ML innovation which is the future. Wouldn't count them out when their stock performed best of any FAAMG this past year and revs are growing faster than the rest

IBM made Deep Blue, Watson (the Jeopardy player), two of the 10 most powerful computers in service today, and outperformed the S&P 500 from 2001 to 2014.

What's your point? A gigacorp has tons of inertia?

My point was they're leading the field in AI when it is the future. What they're doing goes way beyond what Watson was. IBM also wasn't a trillion dollar company growing at 40% https://twitter.com/JonErlichman/status/1453089818402041857

Alright fanboi. You’re clearly not serious

I think it's probably tied to the rise in gated content. Especially news. Unless they want to delist every for-profit news site, they can't carte blanche remove walled content. The algo is fundamentally based on popularity. If enough users are logging in to those sites and clicking on them, they'll keep being ranked.

I have stopped using Google where possible. DDG and Bing.

Interestingly, Google used to offer own extension "Personal Blocklist" to hide undesirable sites from displaying in search result. But it was removed, I guess not to mess with Google's manipulations with search results. Now the link to the extention in the Google's blog post about it leads to 404. [1]

1. https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-chrome-extension...

For about the past month I feel like I have had a ton of searches that returned irrelevant results. I use to be able to have a typo and other wrong things and it always did a good job until recently.

Its because AI like GPT-3 which can't fool a human, is extremely good at fooling a search engine and now we've effectively lost good search results to spam.

Many aeons ago librarians told Google that sources cannot be trusted equally and that they needed to build a manually reviewed and ranked corpus before their index filled with machine generated shit.

But techbros put trust in the algorithm because they knew best...

Try Kagi.com while its in free beta, and see if you like it.

I've been using kagi for a few weeks now and it's great!

The only issue I have (and reported in their feedback form) is that it sometimes decides to log me out 3 times in an hour, so their session management could be better. But the results are great, with a clean UI and no BS. Definitely sth I'd pay a (small, but nonzero) amount for. Like 5 bucks or so a month.

5 a month would probably get you only some limited amount of searches. It’s currently looking like a plan with generous searches would be $20 and pay per use after.

Interesting, I've never been logged out.

I wonder how much this has to do with do not track and the search engines optimising towards people who don’t enable do not track / limit cookies.

Nothing to do with it. Since around 2018, Google is no longer searching for the keywords a user inputted into the search box, it's running them through an AI that rewrites them to maximize ad yield.

Google's results for nearly every query are the pages that contain the most Adsense. That's how most results became "Best X in $CurrentYear" and top 10 listicles.

Google is going to slowly lose the powerusers first, and then like what happened to Metacrawler, Dogpile and Altavista, the decline will be RAPID as they convert their families and friends.

> Google is going to slowly lose the powerusers first, and then like what happened to Metacrawler, Dogpile and Altavista, the decline will be RAPID as they convert their families and friends.

For that there needs to be a competitor that is clearly better. Which one do you have in mind?

I noticed this as well, and in addition I got two obvious malware sites for two unrelated searches (one programming, one entertainment). So I switched (back) to DDG. That was about a month ago. DDG isn't as good as the Google I remember, but it's better the Google that shows me obvious spam sites, so it's holding on in my book.

gated results are clearly cloaking right? displaying different content for googlebot vs the search user?


Kind of. When NYTimes or Medium only show the first bit of the article it's because you've exceeded your free allotment. Tracking number of articles read uses cookies, which Googlebot does not send.

Still, some sites may condition on User-Agent or otherwise present different content than a clean browser and I think those should be de-listed for cloaking.

Go to kagi.com and ask for an invite. I think they have a serious chance to beat Google. Results are really good.

It's not just pinterest/quora. Bloomberg News is also often up there, and a few others.

Absolutely agreed + I have got redirecting links as top results and non relevancy results

I was terribly frustrated by the google results for "covid test to fly domestic". The "hoisted" response was:

   "Get tested at least 5 days after your last close contact and make sure your test result is negative and you remain without symptoms before traveling. If you don't get tested, delay travel until a full 10 days after your last close contact with a person with COVID-19."

  Domestic Travel During COVID-19 | CDC
  https://www.cdc.gov › coronavirus › 2019-ncov › travelers
You need to look closely at this first hit to realize it dates from 2019 - and is therefore completely useless. Clicking through takes you to a 2022 page with somewhat more complete information, but when I first saw that - two hours before I had to leave for an emergency flight, I was in a horrible panic.

> You need to look closely at this first hit to realize it dates from 2019

No, it doesn't. It couldn't, because there were no tests for COVID-19 in the US until Feb 2020, so the CDC could not possibly be recommending testing before domestic travel in 2019. (The 2019-ncov refers to the novel coronavirus identified in 2019, not the date of the article.)

It may be outdated (the CDC has changed recommendations frequently), but it's not from 2019.

Thanks for pointing that out, both of you! (If not more by now.) Obvious in hindsight and no snark on being corrected. I'd honestly forgotten the -19 nomenclature.

So, I guess I was right to be in a panic about making my flight after all, based on the initial google result. (I don't know when the guidance changed, but the google result is still as I first saw it.)

You might be confused, because the virus is _named_ 2019-nCoV. The page cannot have been from 2019 because global response didn't begin until early 2020.

Edit: Ninja'd

I'm p sure my ad-blocker removes these results all. I dont use google that often but never ever without ad-blocker. Whats the point of a page full or ads when I hardly ever search for anything I want to buy.

I feel like those discussions occur every few months on HN and here I am not noticing any degradation in search result quality. It would really help if you would at least provide some query examples.

I would like to see a search engine like Google, except without paywalled content, without PDFs, without whitepages.com type results in name searches, and without store product pages for items that are out of stock. A lot of that is repackaged public content, so the fact that they're duplicative should be a very strong negative signal. Relegate those pages to a DMOZ/Yahoo model.

I think that would take care of 90% of my frustrations. PDFs are the only questionable item there, I think, but invariably they should be on a research search site or converted to text...or even penalizing the sites that only supply PDF menus for restaurants and PDF manuals for plain consumer items.

What's wrong with PDFs?

Often when I am looking for something related to Maths or Science, I search, and I get nice short 8 ish pages PDFs from good unis, authored by a professor for some course.

Those PDFs are really nice.

Cool, then it can point you to scholar.google

Weird, I never see quora or pinterest in my results anymore. I don't think I'm doing anything special to make this happen.

Also talking about SEO it is all so gamified.

how can I just write something relevant and not do all the “tricks” and still reach to audience

Isn't it just the nature of competition? I've got a wordpress website where I don't really do any SEO, but it is of much better quality (IMHO) than my competitors who are not great with tech, and I am getting a lot of top ranked google/google images results.

that's the beauty of it. You can get massive traffic nowadays without building backlinks like back in the day. by making "better" content. Google really pays attention to user-signals like CTR and bounce rate. Source: I've tested and gamed it a lot.

Legally, Google cannot demote sites for having registration gates, otherwise they would be sued.

Legally, Google can absolutely only show sites in search results based on what the user will see when visiting those sites.

Financially, it may not be worth risking lawsuits, even if they would win.

What’s up with Google?

It’s the best search engine that’s available today, in my opinion.

It may still be the best generally but it's been on a steep decline the past few years.

Really shows how terrible the alternatives are if Google has been on a steep decline for years and is still the best.

I tried DDG for 2 months. Wasn’t worth annoying myself with worse search results for no good reason.

Have you tried another search engine?

Yes. DDG was awful.

You forgot medium which wants you to sign up to read the article.

I used to read so much medium, especially stuff posted here and on Reddit. Now I feel like I hardly see it at all.

The google scraping bot gets past the pay walls in many cases

Can I change my mobile browser to use the same user agent?

Won't work if they care, as there are other verifications: IP addresses https://developers.google.com/search/apis/ipranges/googlebot..., domain name https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/crawling/...

And if Google cared then neither of those pages would be public. At some point SEO became something that Google condoned and actively supported instead of seeing it as people trying to game the system.

>Won't work if they care,

Indeed. Many have lazy useragent implementations though

Kiwi Browser on Android, then install User Agent Switcher?

I have a user-agent switcher and switching to googlebot definitely puts you beyond many paywalls.

Blame the site operators. They probably have specifically allowed the search engine web crawlers to index their sites, while paywalling everybody else.

One possible solution would be for you to use the same user-agent string that the search engines are using, thus you will see the same content.


The bypass paywalls extension might help! It's great for WSJ, economist, and many others. Helps to bypass some of the more common websites at least.


Or paid wall content

I use duckduckgo

Soon someone will train an AI that takes google search results and filters out the sites that repost content with ads. And the sites that are paywalled.

I can pay for a search engine service if it blocks paywalls, bloated sites, fake bullshit clickbait contents. It’s time consuming to find what you’re looking for with Google. Unfortuanetely, there is no alternative.

Golden...for their AMP!

What’s up with all the “What’s up with Google?” Ask HNs?

Yeah, I know this violates the policies, but sheesh…

>Yeah, I know this violates the policies, but sheesh

Polite meta-commentary doesn't violate policy, the rules only apply to jerks.

To answer the question, people wouldn't be complaining on HN about Google Search multiple times per day if they could still find what they were searching for on Google. Search has been a revolutionary world changing product for two decades, and now it's completely stopped working for complex queries. Something is up with Google. Something big is up with Google.

stop being so entitled and be happy with what you get, or build it yourself. I am not sure what makes you think you can dictate how a company should operate.

For those who aren't aware: Google is a lesser-known competitor of the recommended search engine DuckDuckGo.

You can Duck for 'google' to find out more about it.

DuckDuckGo is just Microsoft's highly successful attempt at getting you to use Bing

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