I can’t remember the last time I searched Google. It’s been around six years since I used DuckDuckGo as my main search engine. Which is weird, because people use ‘google’ for searching the web as they do ‘hoover’ for vacuuming cleaning.
This article explores Google’s history and its impact on SEO, content creation. it’s written by Ryan Broderick, author of Garbage Day, a newsletter to which I subscribe. He charts the rise of alternative platforms like Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and suggests that Google’s era of influence may be waning.
There is a growing chorus of complaints that Google is not as accurate, as competent, as dedicated to search as it once was. The rise of massive closed algorithmic social networks like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram began eating the web in the 2010s. More recently, there’s been a shift to entertainment-based video feeds like TikTok — which is now being used as a primary search engine by a new generation of internet users.
For two decades, Google Search was the largely invisible force that determined the ebb and flow of online content. Now, for the first time since Google’s launch, a world without it at the center actually seems possible. We’re clearly at the end of one era and at the threshold of another. But to understand where we’re headed, we have to look back at how it all started.
Twenty-five years ago, at the dawn of a different internet age, another search engine began to struggle with similar issues. It was considered the top of the heap, praised for its sophisticated technology, and then suddenly faced an existential threat. A young company created a new way of finding content.
Instead of trying to make its core product better, fixing the issues its users had, the company, instead, became more of a portal, weighted down by bloated services that worked less and less well. The company’s CEO admitted in 2002 that it “tried to become a portal too late in the game, and lost focus” and told Wired at the time that it was going to try and double back and focus on search again. But it never regained the lead.
That company was AltaVista.