Ex-Googler Answers Why Google Search May Be Getting Worse

November 30, 2022

In the Freakonomics podcast "Is Google Getting Worse?," host Stephen Dubner interviews Marissa Mayer, former president and CEO of Yahoo! and one of Google's first 20 employees. They discuss the state of Google search and whether it is declining in quality.

Mayer suggests that the question itself is flawed, because it presumes that there was a time when search was perfect. In reality, there has always been room for improvement. The real issue, she argues, is that the web itself is becoming more fragmented and difficult to search.

She cites the example of trying to find an old New York Times article from 2001. In the early days of Google, this would have been a relatively simple task. But now, with so much content behind paywalls and behind login walls, it has become much more difficult.

Mayer also argues that we are moving into an era where people are search engines unto themselves. We are increasingly reliant on our social networks to give us recommendations for what to buy, what to read, and where to eat. As a result, we are less likely to turn to Google for these things.

In conclusion, Mayer suggests that the real question we should be asking is not whether Google is getting worse, but whether the web is getting worse.

Freakonomics recently published an article discussing Marissa Mayer's thoughts on the current state of Google. In the article, Mayer argues that the quality of the internet has decreased in recent years. She attributes this decline to the increasing number of web pages (now numbering in the billions) and the corresponding difficulty in indexing all of them. As a result, users are seeing more ads and spammy web pages when they search on Google.

Mayer's solution is for users to be more selective in what they click on and to remember that Google is only a window onto the internet. By being more choosy about what content they consume, users can help improve the overall quality of the internet.

Read the full article here: https://freakonomics.com/marissa-mayer-says-google-is-just-a-window/

Today on the show, the host asked Marissa Mayer about why search results seem to be worse than they used to be.

Mayer answered that it's natural to blame Google for this, but we should instead be asking why the web is getting worse.

She explained that there's more incentive now for things like misinformation and fraud, and that this is why the web is worse than it was 20 years ago.

In a recent interview, web developer Paul Ford argues that the problem with the internet is not that it is unregulated, but that there are economic mis-incentives that lead to a degradation in quality.

Ford believes that the onus should be on brokers of information to try and overcome these problems, rather than on government agencies. He suggests that a more ecosystem-style reaction is needed, rather than a simple correction from one actor.

While there are government agencies dedicated to protecting consumers from fraudulent online activities, such as the United States Federal Trade Commission guidelines on advertising, endorsements and marketing, Ford believes that these rules are not enough to improve the quality of the internet.

In the Freakonomics podcast "Is Google Getting Worse?", the hosts discuss how Google regulates the internet and whether or not its algorithm updates are effective. Google's ability to regulate the internet extends to the quality of content itself, as evidenced by the fact that out of eight algorithm updates in 2022, six of them were focused on spam, product reviews and demoting unhelpful content.

It could be said that Google’s algorithm updates proves that Google is more focused on fixing Internet content than it is on improving the technology for returning relevant search results. That so much of Google’s efforts is focused on encouraging an “ecosystem-style reaction” aligns with Marissa Mayer’s observation that the problem with search is the websites and not Google.

Is Google Search worse because websites today are worse or is the problem with Google itself and they just can’t see it? You can listen to the full podcast here.

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