Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Power of Search Engines

For the past few years Google has been waging what they conceive of as a war against misinformation and lies online, and especially in health claims. The result has been to prioritize "official" sites like the CDC and WebMD even when they are not particularly useful. Examine.com, which some in-the-know people say is the best source for information on how substances from trans fat to Vitamin K supplements affect your health, has seen their traffic fall by 90 percent. Google has mostly pushed Wikipedia to the second page, even though it is generally very strong in biological science.

It seems to me that the problems with Google, and the widespread knowledge of those problems among internet power users, ought to create a real opening for competition. Yet whenever I try other sites they do no better. Often they give me exactly the same results, and when they differ they are less useful. It's time for one of those tech geniuses to step up and give us something truly different.


Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Exactly. Bing or Qwant might be either better or different: they are just poorish standard.

szopen said...


G. Verloren said...

"It's time for one of those tech geniuses to step up and give us something truly different."

John, you're ignoring the simple fact that "tech geniuses" are either Capitalists out to make profits, or they're beholden to such people. We live in a society where a good idea that isn't maximally profitable will rarely, if even, come to fruition.

Google was itself a creation of "tech geniuses" who stepped up and gave us something truly different from prior search engines. And then once they found their great commercial success, they realized their newfound wealth gave them incredible power. And with that newfound power came slow, inevitable corruption.

It's a cycle that happens over and over, in every industry. Some fresh newcomer arrives and boldly shakes up the status quo, only to inevitably become the new status quo and come to embody all the flaws or evils they once decried.

Look at the automotive industry. Look at the news media. Look at cinema, music, television, art, etc. Time and again, the same cycle repeats itself.

And it will always repeat itself, so long as the primary force that drives our choices as a society is profitability and consumption.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

I'd welcome "Some fresh newcomer arrives and boldly shakes up the status quo", whatever he does afterwards.