When moderators took nearly 8,000 subreddits offline in June to protest Reddit management’s proposed API changes, a strange thing happened to Google Search: it got worse.
People often add ‘Reddit’ to their searches to drum up results from the social media platform that has a forum for seemingly every interest and thus provides relevant results for niche search terms.
But the moment thousands of subreddits went dark, it highlighted the close relationship between Reddit and Google in a way that reportedly got the attention of staff and executives at the search and advertising giant.
In a Google all staff meeting, first reported by CNBC, the company’s VP of search, Prabhakar Raghavan, told Googlers that the company had been working on a way to dish up better results so its users aren’t just treating the world’s most popular search engine as a window to Reddit.
“Many of you may wonder how we have a search team that’s iterating and building all this new stuff and yet somehow, users are still not quite happy,” Raghavan reportedly said.
When an employee suggested that people were adding ‘Reddit’ to searches to find “authentic discussion” in a Google Search that has been increasingly corrupted by ads and irrelevant results, CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly said people wanted “more comprehensive answers” to their queries – not just “blue links” leading to other sites.
Those comprehensive answers could be in the form of AI-generated responses of the kind Pichai has been moving his company toward in the wake of ChatGPT’s sudden burst of popularity late last year.
Google’s Bard chatbot is a beta feature that will see the first results of some search queries populated on the fly by an internet-connected large language model.
During Google’s all-staff meeting, Raghavan identified that generative AI alone won’t keep Google users happy, citing another Google Search feature called ‘Perspectives’ that it started rolling out last month.
‘Perspectives’ offers results from the social web – think TikTok and YouTube videos, Tweets, Reddit posts, and Quora answers presented in a scrollable feed delivered as a set of tiles and thumbnails.
So far it’s an inconsistent feature that only appears in specific searches and, because of its scattergun approach to the platform it offers, fails to be a better alternative than either searching your video platform of choice or sticking ‘Reddit’ to the end of your search.
Most of the original protesting subreddits have returned to normal following pressure from the company for moderators to outline how they would re-open their subreddits, threatening “further action”.