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AI Overviews are taking over Google Search, whether you like it or not

Google Search has remained one of the internet’s biggest constants all these years. You don’t look up or bing anything, you always google whatever it is itching your mind. You are then presented with a familiar-looking page full of blue links that take you to the website of your choice. Simple.

That has always been a search engine’s purpose: to direct you to the websites and blogs that have any information relevant to your query. But things have changed rather quickly with the arrival of the formidable force that is generative AI. Google Search has already changed a lot in the last year, but things are going to look even more drastically different going forward when AI takes over the entire search results page.


What is generative AI?

An agent of the human will, an amplifier of human cognition. Discover the power of generative AI

We’ve been seeing signs

The AI onslaught has been coming for more than a year

Over the years, Google Search has changed visually, albeit slowly. The arrival of Knowledge Graph panels gave you quick summaries about people and things. So, now when you have to find where a movie is streaming or some personal trivia about a sportsperson, you don’t need to dig through several websites; it is neatly presented at the top of the page. The same goes for a lot of sections added to Google Search over the years, including the handy FAQ panel.

The problem here is that the information is picked up from several publishers’ websites with the purpose of keeping visitors from going to those very websites. Earlier, this wasn’t that big of a deal, but things have accelerated lately thanks to generative AI summaries. Google introduced Search Generative Experience not too long ago to give you a gist of your search results right at the top of the results page, pushing everything below it.

SGE was riddled with issues, so much so that you’d want to turn it off. And Google, too, was pretty insecure about the implementation as it kept surveying its users through the Google Rewards app to see how people (dis)liked it. After taking all the user feedback, one hoped that Google would find a way to get rid of this unnecessary block of AI-generated text at the top. But no; Google has instead decided to double down on it, with AI practically taking over the entire search results page.

Overtaking with AI Overviews

Both users and publishers have a hard pill to swallow

At the recently concluded Google I/O, Google executives demonstrated how incredibly helpful AI searches can be. AI Overview (a rebranded, public version of SGE) can handle a chain of queries in one go and serve you with customized results. Like in an example where the user searched for restaurant recommendations in Dallas, an entirely new results page appeared with text blocks generated by Gemini, relevant information from Maps, tabulated day-wise plans, and information pulled from different websites.


5 biggest Google I/O announcements: Circle to Search, Search changes, and lots of AI

This ain’t your dad’s Google

Even more impressive was the video search demo where you record a quick video of something, and Search will identify exactly what it is and give you the information you asked for based on that. This can come in handy when something is broken, and you don’t know how to fix it or what that part is even called — and all you need is to record a video with your favorite Android phone already in your hand. To get you the answers through video input, a lot of clever engineering happens in the background to analyze the video frame by frame.

But if you look closely at both these demo videos, the familiar wall of blue links is now gone for good. It is now tucked away as a head in the top menu, where you can click on the Web button to access the good-old list of website links, while the default view is going to be what Google’s AI models want you to see. AI Overview is already rolling out in the US, while its global release likely won’t take long given how aggressively Google’s been pushing its AI tools.

When a search engine tries to give you the information you need, it keeps you from visiting the website that originally collated the information. It is Google’s way of keeping you locked into its platform and not letting the traffic spill to the publisher’s website, which actually needs it. The publishing industry globally is already struggling with layoffs while some are being forced to shut down because of Google’s ever-changing guidelines, and these AI additions only add fuel to the fire.

Google might say that it still provides links along with its AI snippets for the users to dig deeper, but it simultaneously also takes away the incentive from the readers to do so. And as for you, the reader, it means you’re kept away from high-quality content and results from reliable blogs and websites since AI cannot be trusted as much as Google wants you to believe.

AI and its hallucinations

A short story

A recent report by Quartz detailed how Google’s brand-new AI Overview suggested a user to change blinker fluid when they googled why their car blinker wasn’t sounding its usual chime. If you know anything about cars (or electricals), you’d know that any fluid would ruin the blinkers quicker than you can go back to blame AI for it. This is just one — and a rather harmless — example of how unreliable AI is right now. Imagine a similar kind of hallucination when someone asks a more critical, say health-related, question and goes ahead with the suggestions without cross-checking in haste.

AI cannot be trusted as much as Google wants you to believe.

In the literal AI war that Google is fighting, the company is brushing aside such glaring issues with AI and making it the default search experience for everyone, whether you like it or not. Google is even looking to show ads in AI overviews in the near future. Moreover, a separate web-only tab gives a clear indication of how little importance Google Search gives to the real web results now with AI in its hands. It’s not a win-win situation anymore — only Google is coming out as the winner here, while both the users and the publishers are getting the short end of the stick.

Originally Appeared Here

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